New Cab Service for, by Women Stalling Because of Lack of Female Drivers

Earlier this summer, I had a 6 a.m. flight from New York to L.A. At 4 a.m., I walked out of my apartment and threw my arm into the bare street. A cab pulled up immediately and the driver, Manuel, struck up a conversation when I got in: we talked about where I was headed to, where he was from and what we liked to do. He was friendly, so I trusted him… too much.

Scary cab driver. Photo Credit

“You know I can give you a ride for free if you want…” he started suggestively, looking me straight in the eye. I froze. We were driving down back streets to avoid tolls, and I didn’t know the area. “I’ll even pick you up the day you come back. I’ll be at the terminal waiting for you. Come on, I have girls do it all the time..."
So it’s 4:30 a.m. and I’m riding through the back streets of Queens with a 55-year-old Dominican man who’s offering a free ride for sex.
I sit stone-faced and quiet. What had I already told him about my life?
Why was I so naive to be talking so candidly with this man?
I first think of my momeither out of a childish want for her sympathy or worry that she’d find out the situation I put myself in. And then I reach for my macejust in case and keep my face in my phone. I do a silent jig for joy when I see the lights of LGA. We pull up to the terminal, I get my bag and ditch without a word or a tip.

This isn’t a phenomenon. Accounts of sexual harassment in cabs are plentiful, from inappropriate comments to groping and even stalking. And according to a 2012 Gallup poll of 143 countries, women consistently feel far less safe being alone in public at night, even in developed countries where safety is more guaranteed. But with a new cab service run for and by women in New York City, women will be able to take control of their transportation. SheRides is attempting to provide safety, security and employment opportunities for women that the current cab system does not.  Founder and wife to the president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, Stella Mateo, debuted SheRides in Long Island, Westchester and New York City on Monday.

However, the service stalled its start because it didn’t have enough female drivers yet.

According to the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, only one percent of New York City cabs are driven by women, but the demand for women taxi drivers is high. Miriam Malave, a female driver from Brooklyn, told The New York Times that she is often overbooked, and noted that Hasidic Jewish and Muslim women who are restricted by customs from dealing with men in public, are frequent customers.

Stella Mateo, Founder of SheRides, at its launch last Monday. Photo by The Epoch Times

We have demand, but no supply.

Ezra Rosser, a professor at American University Washington College of Law, who focuses his research on poverty, says there are all sorts of explanations why SheRides is having a hard time finding female cab drivers, but most likely it’s because it is dangerous for women. For the five million immigrant women in NYC who are heads of their households and the thousands unemployed, this is an economic opportunity missed out of fear. “It’s certainly observable that men are doing jobs that not only pay better but have a better long-term upside,” Rosser says of missed opportunities for women. “You can get paid more and you can get more responsibilities.” Even though there is a demand for female cab drivers  and there are thousands of eligible women in need of a job, women are still holding back. Rosser says it’s also likely that women being the primary homemakers is also a factor. According to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, drivers must be active at least 70 hours weekly to make $35,000. The time commitment is unmanageable for women, and especially immigrant women, tasked with the majority of household and childrearing responsibilities. “But some of it is driven by employee expectations,” Rosser says. “If you’re hiring, you might just employ men because you’re used to [hiring men] even though a woman is qualified.
Mateo said she has 100 drivers ready to go, but that she is seeking 400 more before she officially opens the service, which is accessible by phone or app. She says she started the service because she would rather use and send her two girls in cabs with women drivers. SheRides’ website touts the empowerment of female cab drivers with a big slogan “Empowering Women to Take the Wheel” displayed prominently. With a job guaranteed for women drivers and a community that brands itself as a friendly option for women on both sides of the window, perhaps SheRides will be more accessible and attractive to qualified women drivers.