Last year, Saudi Arabia took a huge step towards increased female equality when it finally granted women the right to drive. Before September 2017, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world which segregated the use of its roads based on sex. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ended all of that with a royal decree, and now the country is preparing for a host of changes to be implemented this June as women begin driving on Saudi streets. Among some of the first preparatory measures was a massive hiring campaign conducted by ride-sharing apps Uber and Dubai-based Careem.
Saudi women are no strangers to Uber or Careem vehicles, but this is the first time they will be behind the wheel. Without the ability to drive themselves, Saudi women currently make up 80% of the Uber market in Saudi Arabia and 70% of Careem. To help get these women into the driver’s seat, the companies both launched massive publicity campaigns in three cities this month, putting on 90-minute training sessions to help inform Saudi women about road safety and how to conduct themselves as professional drivers.
Both companies have also held workshops they’ve called “listening sessions” in which Saudi women have been invited to share their experiences and discuss what services are needed most Saudi women. Abdullah Elyas, co-founder and chief privacy officer at Careem, told CNN that hiring female drivers will mean more Saudi women will have their own form of on-demand transportation for the first time:
Female captains will help us provide a better service to many women who want to travel but refuse to be driven by men. This means that a new segment of Saudi society that does not use our services will begin (to use it) next June.
To help ease the transition, Careem has rolled out a host of safety and sensitivity features to ensure female drivers are comfortable behind the wheel. Female drivers will only be able to be hailed by female Careem users or families, and the app will encrypt all female drivers’ phone numbers so they cannot be tracked. Both the Saudi government and the ride-sharing apps hope the move will help relieve the country’s high unemployment rate.