Uber wants to inlist female drivers in Saudia Arabia.
Currently, Uber has about 95,000 monthly active drivers in Saudi Arabia. And right now, only one is a woman.
It seems as if change is on the way. Uber (as well as Middle East ride-hailing rival Careem) is launching programs aimed at leveraging the sweeping cultural and economic changes afoot in the country.
This past weekend, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman lifted the country’s ban on women driving. It’s one of many changes spearheaded by the kingdom’s heir to the throne.
Uber was ready. The company has spent months preparing for this moment, conducting research on the country’s demographics and developing an approach that will add to its driver ranks without veering too far from cultural norms there.
The company says it will pilot a new feature this fall that will let women drivers in Saudi Arabia select a preference to be connected to female riders.
Uber says market research conducted in collaboration with Ipsos helped it understand (and ultimately take advantage of) the opportunity.
The research found 31 percent of Saudi women surveyed were interested in driving as a way to earn money. The company has also discovered that 74 percent of prospective women drivers interviewed would only be interested in driving women riders.
Women in Saudi Arabia legally took to the streets behind the wheel for the first time on June 24th, 2018, marking a historic occasion for the residents of the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative countries for women in the world. Only one in five Saudis employed in the country are women, reported Quartz. Inconvenient transportation has played a role in blocking women from pursuing jobs because they previously needed male relatives to provide rides, according to Quartz. As the ban lifts, new opportunities are available for Saudi women, including being Uber and Careem drivers.
Getting rid of the driving ban is the latest visible sign of change in Saudi Arabia.
The young Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman is spearheading an ambitious economic reform plan called Vision 2030 that’s aiming to diversify and modernize the conservative nation. Plans include a push into tourism and move away from the country’s dependence on oil revenue.
“The vision itself is all about diversifying the economy and engaging the Saudis in the labor force. Engaging Saudis doesn’t either mean male or female; it’s all the Saudis,” Lary said.
Meanwhile, Careem has received more than 2,000 applicationssince announcing it would recruit female drivers in Saudi Arabia. The company has a goal of hiring 20,000 Captinahs (its term for female drivers) across the Middle East by 2020.
Women will no longer have to depend on husbands or fathers to get to work, or spend a significant chunk of their salaries on a full-time driver.