The popular but controversial taxi service Uber has set an ambitious goal of having 1 million female drivers worldwide by the year 2020.
The company announced Tuesday that it was partnering with UN Women on the initiative, with the goal of “accelerating economic opportunity for women.”
In a blog post, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka wrote: “We intend to invest in long-term programs in local communities where we live and work, as Uber commits to creating 1,000,000 jobs for women globally on the Uber platform by 2020.” They also said that the partnership represented Uber and the UN’s “shared vision of equality and women’s empowerment.”
It is not clear how many Uber drivers are women. In the U.S., as of December, Uber told Reuters that the company had 160,000 drivers and 14% of them were women.
Safety for women passengers has become a concern with the rise of ride-sharing companies, both in the U.S. and internationally, and Uber’s reputation with women has been tarnished following a series of incidents. In India, Uber was banned from the capital city of New Delhi in December after a woman said she was allegedly raped by an Uber driver. In Boston, an Uber driver was charged with rape in December. And in New York, a startup called SheRides debuted a women-only taxi service with exclusively female drivers to help address these concerns.
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Additionally, many Uber users were outraged after an Uber executive speaking at an event suggested that the company would dig up information about the personal life of a female journalist who had been critical of Uber. That event prompted some users to boycott the service, citing its lack of concern for women’s rights and women’s safety. Uber later responded, saying in a statement: “We have not, do not and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks have no basis in the reality of our approach.” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick also responded on Twitter, saying the executive’s comments “were terrible and do not represent the company.”
Salle Yoo, Uber’s general counsel, told Reuters that though there will be more female drivers, female passengers will not yet have the ability to specifically request a female driver.