After negative press, Uber promises 1 million new female drivers by 2020

Uber announced it is partnering with UN Women to increase the diversity of its staff. 

Mosa'ab Elshamy
File - Anthony Khoury, head of Middle East and Africa expansions for Uber, displays the application on a mobile photo during an event to celebrate the official launch of the car-hailing service in Cairo, Egypt.

Uber announced on its blog Tuesday that it is committed to adding 1 million female drivers to its global payroll by 2020. 

Referencing the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, a plan by the United Nations (UN) to push for gender equality worldwide, Uber says it has partnered with UN Women for the economic advancement of women everywhere. 

“Today, UN Women and Uber are launching a partnership to work together around the world toward a shared vision of equality and women’s empowerment,” writes UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uber chief executive officer Travis Kalanick in a joint statement. “Join the conversation and help ensure the UN Women’s mission of economic empowerment is heard.... This important mission can only be accomplished when all women have direct access to safe and equitable earning opportunities.”

Uber and UN Women will be working together in countries where they both have a presence. Uber general counsel Salle Yoo told BuzzFeed News that UN Women is on the ground in 48 countries, while Uber can be found in 55 nations. The locations that overlap will be the main focus of the effort.

Ms. Yoo went on to tell Bloomberg that just 14 percent of American Uber drivers are women and that “there is still room to grow.”

The move comes after a wave of negative press, painting the ride-sharing company as sexist or at least as unfriendly to women.

Uber has been plagued with complaints of women not feeling safe while using the service. The company faced a string of high profile rape and sexual assault allegations in multiple US cities and India, the latter of which banned the app temporarily. And then there was the issue of threatening to dig up dirt on critical female journalists.

Since the Indian rape allegations, Uber has rolled out a panic-button feature for customers in the country, but has yet to extend the feature in any other countries or to drivers. Yoo said there are plans to add the feature in other countries.

“Safety is the number-one priority for Uber,” Yoo went on to say to BuzzFeed. “We continue to learn and evolve.... Women [drivers] bring a lot of real life experience. As a company, [listening to women is] where we should start.”

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