Is This Ride Safe? And Other Questions Women are Sick of Asking
There are so many things that women have to consider when calling an Uber, Lyft, or any ride-sharing service. Is it safe to ride one alone? Is it too late at night? Will my driver be someone I can trust?
One Make Muse team member described this lingering feeling of worry: “I'm pretty nervous to get in alone or late at night just because there are so many horror stories. I felt so relieved when the driver arrived and she was a woman which is kinda messed up, but so many of my friends have experienced uncomfortable situations because of male drivers hitting on them.” Other team members concurred, saying that there is a constant fear that something might happen and that riding in an Uber alone makes them feel uncomfortable.
Many women, college-age and otherwise, feel these anxieties even if nothing particularly disturbing ever happens. Sometimes, however, our fears become reality. Another Make Muse team member described an experience where she got into an Uber in Paris at night and the male driver began flirting with her using Google Translate.
“Thankfully he dropped me off at my correct destination,” the Make Muse team member said. “It was just the most awkward and uncomfortable and unsettling Uber ride I’ve ever had in my life. Especially because so much there could have gone wrong.”
With ride-sharing apps developing an established presence all over the world, some innovators are seeking to ensure that women are both safe and comfortable when using the service. Uber, for example, announced the new “Women Preferred View” feature for women drivers in Saudi Arabia, which allows them to choose a preference to be connected to women riders.
Another incredible example of these efforts is DriveHER, a ride-sharing company for women, by women. After experiencing an uncomfortable ride in which she faced sexual comments from her driver, Aisha Addo founded DriveHER to create a safer option for women. Only women (or a man accompanied by a woman) can use the service, and there are women drivers only.
Make Muse reached out to Addo to learn more about her company, her inspiration, and her plans for the future.
Make Muse: Can you tell me about DriveHER? What was your inspiration for starting the company?
Aisha Addo: One of the main things for me in terms of what actually inspired me starting DriveHER was a personal connection to the cause. I always wondered why ride-sharing companies were not taking the voices of women into consideration. I had an encounter in a taxi that left me a bit shaken up, and I always say that my story is a bit different where it didn’t end in a physical altercation or sexual harassment, but I did have this feeling of being uncomfortable. This person was taking me to my home, and they were making me feel very uncomfortable in this space that is supposed to be my safe space. And I also heard many stories from young girls about similar experiences. So as a result of my experience and also hearing their stories of trying to figure out how to get home or getting into taxis or using ride-sharing platforms, all of that inspired me to create something that was catered to women. We’re going to design the platform with women in mind. It was an interesting journey because we weren’t necessarily creating something new, we were just carving out a space specifically for women.
Make Muse: What has the response been like from other women?
Aisha Addo: One of the main pieces of feedback we’ve gotten has been “Oh my God, this is so amazing, I’m so happy that this exists.” So the response has been great, and honestly when we were creating the service we didn’t think the response was going to be anything short of that because as a woman myself, I know the experience of getting into a transportation service and feeling scared. I knew what that meant. There may have been some people where the service was not for them, and that’s fine. We just want to present an alternative because we understand the importance of having a service like DriveHER.
Also, the service does not just benefit the customers; it’s also important to drivers. We want them to know other women care about their safety. Our focus is on ensuring the safety not just of our users but of our drivers.
Make Muse: On your website, it says that you founded the Power to Girls Foundation. How might that experience helped to found DriveHER, and what about it helped to inform your work?
Aisha Addo: I always like to refer to Power to Girls as my first baby, perhaps because it was my first time getting into that space. The experiences that my girls had and that they shared with me influenced DriveHER. One of my key goals is creating safe spaces for women and girls, and in the end DriveHER is about creating a safe space. With Power to Girls, the medium was schools, and with DriveHER, the medium is transportation. I think it’s been an expression of the work I’m passionate about: creating safe spaces for women and girls.
Make Muse: Can you tell me a little bit more about the community aspect of your business?
Aisha Addo: Going back to what I am passionate about, it’s always community and the work we do within communities. We want to find ways to support the people that we work with because we consider them to be part of our key stakeholders. The plan is that once DriveHER gets to a certain level, that point where it’s something beyond us, the plan is to give back to the community. Right now we’re focused on partnering with community organizations and community members. The plan is also to connect with shelters in Toronto so that DriveHER can be that safer transportation option for women who are fleeing domestic violence. We want to be part of getting them to safety.
Additionally, we consider DriveHER to be a community in itself, because it is so focused on women’s safety.
Make Muse: What has been the most challenging and rewarding part of this process? What advice do you have for young women hoping to start a business?
Aisha Addo: One of the most challenging aspects has been growing the project to where you see it being. The rewarding aspect has been the community that has come out of the business, and being able to recognize that process and enjoy that process. Some advice I would give to someone looking to get into entrepreneurship would be always recognize your ‘why.’ Your why is going to be the main thing that keeps you going. And a lot of times that why is going to be community. The other piece of advice is just to keep going, and not to give up.