New York City is currently in the midst of the taxi wars, as car service apps like Uber and Lyft duke it out with each other and with the official NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission. This week, however, a new competitor aims to reach a previously untapped market: female passengers who would prefer a female driver.
SheRides, as it’s known in the city, (SheTaxis is the official name in the suburbs, which could potentially create some confusion.) allows women to use a smartphone app to arrange for a taxi driven by a woman, a service that many who feel uncomfortable alone in a car with an unfamiliar man may appreciate. The company was founded by Stella Mateo, wife of Fernando Mateo who founded the New York State Federation of Cab Drivers, which represents more than 30,000 drivers. Ms. Mateo said that she wished something like SheRides had existed when her two daughters were growing up to provide them with safe rides to their soccer, basketball, field hockey and gymnastics practices. SheRides will also be useful for religious Jewish and Muslim women who not allowed to share a car with unknown men.
Stella Mateo also hopes that SheRides can help more women enter the male-dominated taxi transportation industry in New York. Only 5% of for-hire drivers, and just 1% of yellow cab drivers, identify as women, creating a huge gender disparity within the industry. So far Mateo has recruited around 100 drivers between the ages of 21 and 70, who proudly sport hot pink pashmina scarves to identify themselves as SheRides team members, but she’ll have to hire around 400 more to make the service viable. So far the demand has vastly outweighed the supply, with female residents showing a great deal of interest in using the app, but not as many people opting to become drivers themselves. SheRides launch was postponed due to this shortage, but new recruits are actively being searched for out of the company’s Long Island City and Mamaroneck offices. Some lawyers have spoken about the potentially illegality of discriminating against men in the hiring process, but it remains to be seen whether or not SheRides encounters such lawsuits.
Many women feel unsafe or uncomfortable riding alone in a car with a male driver, but SheRides aims to combat this. Though the app’s New York launch has faced some setbacks, Mateo is optimistic about its future and hopes to eventually expand to even more cities.