The Women+ Connect feature enables female and non-binary passengers to match with drivers of the same gender, provided there are any in their immediate area. Although nearly half of Lyft’s passengers in the US are women, only 23% of its drivers are female (CNN, 2023). The feature – which was highly requested, according to Lyft – follows multiple reports of sexual harassment and assault, which have caused media outlets and even the company’s own shareholders to scrutinise how much (or how little) action it’s taking to protect female and non-binary riders.
The unfortunate safety concerns of female drivers and passengers aren’t only limited to America’s ride-sharing industry. In Johannesburg, South Africa, female drivers for Uber (US) and Bolt (Estonia) ride-hailing services frequently voice similar worries about feeling threatened by aggressive male passengers. To address these issues on a global scale, Uber released an in-app feature called Women Rider Preference in March 2023, which is currently available in 23 countries, including South Africa. Similar to Lyft’s Women+ Connect, it allows users to choose if they’d rather be picked up by female or non-binary drivers.
These updates, which demonstrate an effort on the part of ride-hailing companies to be more conscious of their customers’ and workers’ safety concerns, come at a time when the rights of drivers and other gig workers are increasingly in the spotlight.