Amid Passenger Safety Concerns, Uber Promises To Hire 1 Million Women Drivers By 2020

uberwomenWhile ridesharing service Uber has fans glad to new options for getting around town, headlines about drivers allegedly assaulting and harassing female passengers continues to cast a pall over Uber’s reputation. So today the company announced a plan to hire 1 million female drivers worldwide over the next five years.

The plan was announced as a partnership with the United Nations’ UN Women group.

“We intend to invest in long-term programs in local communities where we live and work, as Uber commits to creating 1 million jobs for women globally on the Uber platform by 2020,” reads a joint statement from UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. “This important mission can only be accomplished when all women have direct access to safe and equitable earning opportunities.”

The company didn’t provide specifics on its current level of female drivers, but did tell Reuters that around 22,000 of Uber’s 160,000 U.S. drivers are women.

Uber believes that its service offers schedule flexibility and may be a good fit for working mothers.

“Uber does not require (minimum) hours, and it does not require a schedule,” the company’s general counsel explains to Reuters. “It offers the chance to be entrepreneurial, the chance to balance work and family.”

The service has been criticized for not doing enough to vet its drivers before hiring and not being responsive to complaints from female passengers.

Like the London woman who says her driver kept propositioning her for oral sex. While the driver is apparently no longer working for Uber, the most the company would ever tell this passenger was that it was looking into the matter.

In two recent incidents in Chicago, drivers allegedly crossed the line from verbal harassment into actual assault. One driver has been charged with criminal sexual assault, unlawful restraint and kidnapping for allegedly exposing himself to a male passenger before choking the man and trying to force him into performing oral sex on him. Police accused a second driver — who was actually illegally using his wife’s Uber account to pick up passengers — of assaulting a sleeping female passenger in his car and then again in his home.

In response to those claims, Uber recently announced it would add a panic button to the app in Chicago.

Then there was the Florida woman who says her Uber driver groped her. When confronted by police about the allegation, the driver said the woman was asking to be assaulted because she dared to wear a tank top without a bra.

Beyond these cases, Uber also has to live down the 2014 Uber France promotion in which it offered 20-minute rides with attractive female drivers with a tagline asking, “Who says women don’t know how to drive?”

Here is the promotional video that Uber is using to announce the hiring initiative: