Are Female Cabbies Moving Into the Fast Lane?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the next Taxi Driver could star Robert De Niro’s sister.
By Nathan Siegel
Robert De Niro cruising the bad streets of NYC, picking up prostitutes, checking out porn flicks, a concealed weapon up his sleeve all the while. Martin Scorsese’sTaxi Driver pretty much immortalized a national image of the person who pilots a yellow sedan. The numbers in the world’s taxi capital back it up: According to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, only
536 out of New York City’s 50,000 taxi drivers are women.
That’s not the case everywhere — the figure is about half the national average. Either way, compared with some other places around the world, America’s taxi industry looks like some kind of utopian matriarchy. Afghanistan boasts a grand total of one female taxi driver, while Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, has just as many female moto taxi drivers (one!).
Credit the obvious safety concerns and a general belief that the streets at night are the domain of testosterone, says Graham Hodges, author of Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver. It’s not a profession many families want for their daughters, he says. “It’s kinda dirty, you’re vulnerable, dealing with a lot of cash, and unexpected things can happen.”
Surprisingly, male domination in the world of taxis hasn’t always been status quo. During World War II, just like factories, the cab industry saw huge numbers of male workers head off to fight ze Germans. The taxi business needed women to step in and step on it (the gas pedal, that is). But post-war, women were ousted in favor of homeward-bound veterans. But women cabbies appear to be back on the rise, and this time it could be for good.
Uber, which has a dubious reputation of sexist ads and brushing aside concerns of female passenger safety, announced it wants to get 1 million female drivers by 2020 (the U.N. group supposedly partnering with Uber has apparently backed out; Uber did not respond to multiple requests for comment). Female-only taxi services are also cropping up. Take SheTaxi, a hyped Uber-esque app that will only allow women to drive women. After a delayed launch because they couldn’t get enough drivers, their fleet — more than 400 drivers — has been pedal to the metal since October of last year.
Though taxis don’t always get a lot of love from college counselors, there might be some added benefit for women drivers. For one, a $10 fare can’t be negotiated — meaning women get equal pay. And in a nation where equally qualified women make 75 cents on the dollar compared with men in the workplace, that’s a big deal. Services like SheTaxi could also provide women, particularly those who are unable to be in the same car as a man that isn’t her husband because of religious restrictions, a job or ride around town that simply wasn’t possible before, says Tamika Mallory, SheTaxi’s spokesperson. Dare we call it a cabbie comeback?
- Nathan Siegel, Nathan covers global business, sports and culture for OZY, where he landed after putting his dreams of basketball stardom on hold ... for now. After a childhood of jumping from country to country, Nathan is used to feeling like a tourist everywhere he goes. Follow Nathan Siegel on Twitter Follow Nathan Siegel on FacebookContact Nathan Siegel