A modest proposal for Uber: let customers filter drivers by gender

Getting the usual disclaimer that I’m a huge fan of Uber in particular and ride-sharing services in general out of the way up front, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Uber has been suffering from a number of bad headlines lately. On top of having state and local governments who are deeply in bed with the cab companies and unions fighting them every step of the way, charges of sexism and misbehavior have haunted them as well. Some of the worst ones included a recent allegation of sexual assault against one passenger and a second one who was allegedly punched in the eye. Both of the riders were women.

Taking care of female clientele who are on the move and essentially relying on strangers for ground travel presents the company with unique challenges. That got me to thinking about how customer service, security and consumer perceptions might be improved for Uber. One possible answer popped up when I was reading about a new start-up operation in California which provides a similar car service that is designed only to be used by women and only employs female drivers. (CBS Los Angeles)

A father and daughter business team from San Juan Capistrano hopes to put an end to that anxiety for female riders.

See Jane Go, launched last year, has only female drivers who only pick up female passengers. The founders William and Savannah Jordan say the more women worry about their safety when they travel alone, the more they are finding out about the company and signing up for the ride app.

“A lot of people talk about incidences like this and express a lot of gratitude,” Savannah Jordan said. “We’re glad we are here for them.”

I realize we’re getting into some dicey territory right off the bat because any time you talk about segregating services across any demographic lines you’re going to have the social justice crowd setting their hair on fire and the media quickly joins in on the dog pile. But in reality, that generally only applies if you are excluding a protected and politically favorable class. A service which barred women from either access to services or jobs would quickly be lashed to a whipping post and driven out of town. But since we’re talking about reality here, nobody is going to complain about a service like See Jane Go because it’s exclusive to ladies, addresses a very real need and the half of the population they are shutting out are men.

So if you can safely get away with this without fear of SJW backlash, could the same idea be grafted on at Uber, Lyft and the others? In theory it should be possible. People setting up their customer profiles could have the option (and it’s key that it must be optional) of specifying their gender in their profile. That demographic info could be mandatory for drivers. Then, female customers could select an option of only being connected with female drivers through the app. I’m guessing it would hugely popular with the XX chromosome half of the population.

Yes, I can see some immediate problems which potentially come with it. The LGBT crew will immediately scream about how transgender passengers and drivers are classified and the ambiguous gender folks (or whatever the term for that is these days) will probably pitch a fit, but hopefully the numbers are small enough to overcome. Also, you’d need to be prepared for the backlash of not allowing male passengers to to sign up for that feature unless they wanted to only get male drivers. (Rather unlikely I think.) But if they were given a choice, I’m betting that too many of the guys would opt for only female drivers as well. (No… I’m not going to expand on that one. If you’re a guy you know what I mean.) Under those conditions the available female drivers would soon be swamped, the male drivers wouldn’t get enough fares and everyone’s service would be slowed down.

Still, it sounds as if those challenges could be overcome. And if you have any chivalry left in your heart you’ll agree that it’s probably be a good thing to offer female customers. It’s something to consider anyway.