This All-Female Rideshare Service Is Here to Make Women Feel Safe

Nicole Singh

This feature is dedicated to our #NoChangeNoFuture initiative. From the Women’s March, to the #MeToo Movement, and Australia voting yes to same sex marriage, we are coming together as a collective of powerful women who are writing our own history and changing what it means to be one. Join us as we commit to being the change we want to see in 2018. Because without change, there is no future.

The truth is, as fun as a Saturday night out can be, as women, one thing that's often in the back of our (and our mothers) minds is staying safe—particularly on the journey home. Which is exactly what led to the idea behind Shebah, an all-female rideshare service that is designed to empower women to feel safe.

Founded by comedian and writer George McEncroe after she felt too unsafe to register to become an Uber driver twice, it was her 18-year-old daughter's re-occurring incidents in taxis and Ubers that pushed her to create a safe experience for women who are both drivers and passengers of these services. Running with the idea and then finding investment through a GoFundMe page, Shebah is now available countrywide and looks only set to grow. 

Not only a passionate feminist, but also an ambassador for diversity, McEncroe is also speaking at the upcoming Change the Ratio conference, and is a perfect candidate to shed light on how we can increase inclusivity for all industries in Australia. Read on to learn about her entrepreneurial journey so far.

Where did the idea for Shebah come from?

The idea for Shebah came out of a mixture of frustration and inspiration. I was really angry that I’d worked so hard raising four kids, always working, then post-divorce had the money but no bank would give me a home loan as my work was sporadic and I wasn’t a good risk. I decided to drive for Uber to increase my income and then get a loan. Then I started to get scared. Twice I registered to drive, and twice I backed out fearing, essentially, that I’d be hurt by a drunk bloke or blokes, and that somehow, I’d be held accountable for any crime committed against me. I know how female victims of crime are treated in the courts and in the media.

Shebah works like any other rideshare app. It’s cashless. You download it on Android and iOS. You can book in advance and you can book car seats too. Our drivers can travel with her baby on board if she wants to as long as she informs her passenger and yes, we are trans friendly. We have a video on our Facebook page and website showing you how to use it.

Do you think that due to this service being female-focused, it was harder to get support from the wider community?

Yes, it’s a feminist idea and it’s long overdue. Women are 60 percent of Uber users and 58 percent of Cab users. However, women are only 4 percent of Cab drivers and only 10 percent of Uber driver, which is interesting considering that women are 68 percent of the casual work force. So, something is wrong here. If driving was safer, if how women felt as drivers was ever taken seriously, we’d see many more women in the transport sector. But women’s needs are not thought about or prioritised. It’s nice to see that the wider community has been very supportive.

Since launching the idea, what has the company’s growth been like?

Shebah is national now but we are still recruiting drivers in the Northern Territory and don’t have drivers there yet. But they’re coming! The feedback has been so positive. I had never thought of all the ways it would be used: The school runs, the babies, even two single mums have used our service to take them to hospital and bring them home with a baby seat.

We’ve had so many girls use us for sport. Mums have told us they have been able to take a promotion thanks to our service getting their kids to sport, music or just home from school. We have older passengers who love the way our driver will walk them into the chemist, wait for the dosette box to be filled and then drive them home again. It’s real community love. 

You’re speaking at the Changing the Ratio conference, why do you think something like this is so important for companies in Australia to attend?

Ratios matter. And I always laugh when men say “We have gender equality in our company, 30 percent of our staff are women.” I don’t claim to understand much but I know what half looks like.

So, conferences like Change The Ratio is crucial for bringing some robust, no-nonsense data, discussion and rigour to a problem that isn’t going to fix itself. Diversity in all areas is important. There’s no doubt that you get the best brains by firstly realising unconscious bias is just that; unconscious. We have to wake up and self evaluate all the time. 

Is there a woman in a major weekly radio spot on any major commercial talk back station giving feedback to politicians? No chance! Are we seeing yet another white man in a suit presenting a TV comedy show based on the news of the week? Yup!

These enforce and reinforce the idea that only men are worth listening to. It underpins a very dangerous notion that men matter more. That women are trivial. It gives men all sorts of distorted ideas about women and children as property, lesser, unequal, disposable, interchangeable.

What are some initial steps you think a company can take to become more diverse?

To become diverse we must recognise our own tendencies to go with the known. Then examine them and continue to examine them. Then you must as a matter of principle, seek staff who don’t look like you, who didn’t study where you studied, who learnt their skills via a different path than you. All those things will bring you the better richer cross section of our community/market.

For tickets to this event, click through to Eventbrite. And download the app on iTunes.  

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