Female Uber Drivers: Our Take Home And Our Challenges
It was 7:30 am, Mrs Elizabeth Sola had just dropped her son at school and was about to start the day’s work. Her ride-hailing service begins the moment she drops off her son at school.
It was the busy hours of the day as many workers were commuting to work and those uncomfortable with the commercial buses opt for cabs.
As a woman behind the wheel, a commercial one at that, she always gets a lot of attention from clients.
Sola stated that the desire for financial stability pushed her into the business, adding that she was happy with the decision.
The mother of one stated, “I ventured into the business sometime last year during a crucial time in my family. My husband and I were going through a tough financial phase in the home. I have a shop where I sell fabrics but the proceeds combined with what my husband earns weren’t enough. Personally, I wanted to make more money and I know that having multiple streams of income was a good decision. When I got some mail from one of the ride-hailing services, I didn’t think twice to respond positively.
“I decided to grab the opportunity. I enjoy driving, so it was an easy thing for me. I got a sales girl to run the shop while I do the work and will check on her from time to time. It has been profitable since I registered as a driver on one of the ride-hailing services.’’Like Sola, Oluwatosin Ore is new to the business and she was greeted with mixed reactions when she started, especially from clients.
She got introduced to the business by a friend when she could no longer cope with financial struggles. According to her, she tried some business ideas but none gave her the income she wanted.
She said, “I do some businesses; I sell skincare products, I am into procurement and real estate. But they are done online so, it’s easy for me to combine them with my car hailing services. It’s been a mixed reaction for me but more importantly, I am enjoying it. It’s been an adventure driving people.
”The female wonder on wheels
Ngozi Ebube also said that she converted her passion into business because for her, it was a case of making money from what one loves doing.
She added, “People always say it is nice making money from one’s hobbies. Driving is one of my hobbies. I have loved it since I was a little girl. I didn’t have a teddy bear or doll as a toddler; I had one toy car after another.
“When I wanted to get a car, I went for a four plug, fuel-efficient car and signed up for dual car-hailing services. I have only been driven by a woman once, so I had no one to talk to about safety concerns. The Internet came to the rescue; I read stories of other female drivers and handed my security over to God. Since then, I have been driving on and off for three years because I have other businesses.”For a single mother, Sayo Oluwadare, the economic situation pushed her into the business. She lost her job in a bank during the COVID-19 pandemic. Oliuwadare appeared to have made lemonade out of the lemon life threw at her.
She stated that she converted her Toyota Yaris into a cab. According to her, she does know that her bravery will lead her into financial freedom.
She said, “I lost my job and I needed to have a stable income. I had just got the idea of starting a ride-hailing service then. I checked them up on the internet and read about the business. I examined my chances and realised I wasn’t doing badly. In the first week, I thought it was luck but I soon realised it was worthwhile. It later dawned on me that it was a big deal. It’s been meaningful since.’’
Mrs Matilda Iruobe isn’t left out of the women who have found a living in ride hailing service. A teacher and a cab driver, she has continued to get increased sources of income.
Iruobe who lives in the Ikorodu area of Lagos said that because of the distance of her house, she started accepting only rides within Ikorodu, adding that occasionally on weekends, she moves to Yaba and restricts herself to Maryland.She normally starts her trip the moment she closes from school by activating her account and zooming off the streets of Ikorodu, picking passengers from different locations.
She said, “I am not sure if it was a right decision but I knew that the salary I got as a private school teacher was not enough amid the country’s economic crisis. I knew I needed to do more, however, I didn’t know what business to do to make money.”Iruobe said she got the inspiration she needed when she saw another woman doing the car hailing service.She stated, “It got clear to me when I ordered a ride and saw that the driver was a woman. I became curious and I asked several questions on how to go about it. I returned home and read about it online. That was when I made up my mind to do it and I have enjoyed it since I started about 18 months ago.
“Eventually, I resigned from my workplace and face the business full-time. The stress of combining teaching and driving was tough. I decided to drop the teaching job for now. Who knows, if I am able to raise enough, I could start my own school. I recently started taking rides out of Lagos. It’s been interesting since. I no longer take trips within Ikorodu.’’Mixed reactions
The female cab drivers said the reception from their clients have been of mixed reactions. They note that the reactions range from excitement, cynicism to surprise.
Sola said the experience had been interesting and she doesn’t hope to stop the business anytime soon.
She said, “It’s been an amazing experience. I don’t plan to stop soon. I love how I meet different people every day. We chat and talk about life. It’s an interesting job. I love it“I’ve not had any kind of challenge, gender wise. Safe for the general car issues and other things like that, other than that, it’s been a smooth ride. My riders tend to respect me somehow I don’t know why. No one has really misbehaved.”
On her part, Ebube described her experience as ‘Beautiful.’
She said, “I really didn’t get to sign up as a result of a lack of employment or the need to survive. I never got frustrated. I wanted to do it for an extra source of income. I was always easy going. Every day is a new experience and passengers trust me. Even those outside the country who come in for holiday get in touch with me to pick them or take them around for a day or sometimes the week”
Ebube, however, said some men view her from the prism of doubt.
“Ironically, 70 per cent of my customers are women. The remaining are men. When they see that the driver is a woman, they are shocked and are curious to see how well I would drive. My father taught me to drive and I always sat in the front passenger seat whenever he sat. I subconsciously drive like him. When male passengers see that I drive well, they almost always give me extra money. Young females told me that I am not judgmental like most drivers and I am patient. We have to look for a way to win our customers too. My present rating on one of the ride-hailing services is 4.75 and on the other it’s 4.87,”she said.
For Ore, some potential customers cancel trips because of her gender.
She said, “There are people who find it interesting that I am a driver with a ride-hailing service. More than often, there are some who ask in amazement why I choose driving. I also read the questions on the faces of some even when they don’t say anything.”Ore said answering their queries to end their curiosity was often not a challenge for her.
She said, “Some customers would cancel trips because I am a woman. Some cancel their trips almost immediately but the worst are those who probably want to satisfy their curiosity. They would wait till I got there, then cancel the ride because I am a woman and some because they wanted to cancel.”
On her part, Oluwadare said she had become used to different reactions from customers, stating that while many expressed excitement, others exhibited a funny attitude akin to giving her orders like she was their personal driver.
She, however, said she had been able to win them with results and had mastered art act of taking charge.
She said, “I have experienced many customers, from the nice ones who admire me as a female driver to the ones who disdain me as if I committed a crime.“I have had many experiences from those who cancel trips because I am a woman. When I newly started the business, it bothered me but over the years, I developed a tough skin and I don’t let it bother me. I tell myself that they miss an opportunity for a beautiful ride-hailing experience.”
“Some would even order me around forgetting that I am a professional. They say things like, ‘take that place, use that route.’ They sometimes taunt me, saying ‘you women are the same or you don’t listen, that’s how my wife does.’“I am usually firm in telling them that I know my job and that I drive for a living and they should let me do my job. Over time, I have shown them by results that it’s my job and I have become friends with a number of them.”
For Iruobe, it’s not easy because she is a bit elderly, so her customers often assume that she wouldn’t drive well.
She stated, “I am in my 40s but when people see that I am a woman who is not so young, they tend to think that I won’t be able to drive well. Ironically, when they see a man who is in his 40s, they see him as an experienced driver.“We face biases every now and then but I haven’t let it stop me. There are those who are intrigued and would really want to have an experience with me. There are many who treat me with respect. In this kind of job, one meets many people; the good, the bad and the ugly.’’
Drivers laughing all the way to the bank
But one thing is common to the female drivers. They are happy with the job, making money and meeting their needs.
Sola linked the money she makes to functionality of the app and customer’s location, noting that daily she makes an average of N15, 000.She said, “For instance today (Wednesday), I made N20,000. Some days, I make N15,000 and in some cases N30,000. It’s a profitable business. Some white collar jobs do not make up to that when they divide their salaries into a day’s pay.”
It’s safe to say that at N15,000 daily, Sola makes an average of N465,000 monthly, for N20,000 daily she makes N620,000 monthly and for N30,000 daily, she takes home N930,000 monthly. But the earnings can be less or more depending on several variables; traffic, passengers’ rush, car issues etc.
Ore said that if one owns a car, it’s easy to make money, stating that per day she makes an average of between N20,000 and N30,000 on a good day.
She said, “I start my trip in the early hours of the day. I try to leave the house as early as I can and I close by 6pm except in rare cases when I have things to do. There is money in the business especially when one owns a car. Daily, I make between N20,000 and N30,000 and in some situations when the business moves really well, one could make up to N50,000. It’s been fun and a lot of money.”
For Ebube, after the deductions, she makes between N10,000 and N25,000.She said, “Depending on the day of the week, I make between N10,000 to N25,000 a day after fuelling the car with about N3,500 to N5,000 at N165 per litre. I can’t say that a business where I make nothing less than N10,000 a day as profit isn’t a good business.’’
It’s the same for Oluwadare who noted that she earns quite well in the business.She said, “Depending on the day of the week, I make between N10,000 to N25,000 a day after fuelling the car with about N3,500 to N5,000 at N165 per litre. I can’t say that a business where I make nothing less than N10,000 a day as profit isn’t a good business.’’
It’s the same for Oluwadare who noted that she earns quite well in the business.
Oluwadare said, “I have been reaping the dividends of being a ride-hailing service. But I must say that my life has changed since I started. In fact, I should have started early. There are many benefits in this business. I determine my work plan and earning. On days when I really want to make money, I make up to N50,000 a day. I just do more trips from mainland to Island and work more at peak periods. Sometimes, some people also hire me and fetches me money.’’
Iruobe said her story was motivating because she started the business to add money to her income, noting that it had become her major source of income.
She said, “When I started, I used to make N10,000 and sometimes N15,000 because of the distances I cover. But now that things have changed. I earn more now”
She refused to disclose her earnings and only laughed when pressed to comment on it.
“Male passengers make advances at us’’
Some of the women, however, noted that driving around town with men as passengers sometimes threw up conversations that make them uncomfortable.
The pretty ones among them stated that they get uncomfortable, adding that they decided not to mix business with pleasure to remain professional.For Sola, she said her light complexion was the first thing her male passengers complimented.
She said, “I get advances from a couple of them every now and then. But such things happen all the time even when I’m not driving. But I try to put them in check. Some would comport themselves after seeing my wedding band but others would get more persistent after that. Some brazenly send messages because they have my number. I just ignore them.”
Ore said even though there was no form of sexual harassment, she wouldn’t deny that there were uncomfortable advances.
She said, “I haven’t experienced any sexual assault or unnecessary sexual advances. But I have been asked by some though if they can call me after the ride and I respectfully declined. Some would even use the excuse of booking me at other times, I usually politely tell them I might not be available.
“In some cases, I tell them that I am married with two kids even though I am single. But that would still not stop them. They would still bombard me with messages even after I have dropped them off. I just ignore all that. ”Ebube noted that her mature looks make her passengers not to bother her.
She said, “Well, I don’t have any of those, I look like a mother of four, so I was always referred to as ‘Ma’ or ‘Madam.’ All I get are questions like ‘your husband doesn’t mind?’ ‘How do you cope with the kids’? I also started growing grey hairs when I was 24 and because I wear a low cut, passengers can see the few strands and think I am older than my age.”Oluwadare said it was always easy for her to spot those with intentions from their stares, so she defensively keeps a straight face and continues her work.
She said,” You would know flirty men and the moment I see them, I just keep a straight face and avoid any conversation, so they don’t have the opportunity to carry out their evil intentions. Though, I still get some naughty messages from some, I just ignore them and in some cases, block them.”
On her part, Iruobe stated that she never experienced any advances from her male passengers because of what she described as her Christians looks.
She said, “I haven’t really had such an experience maybe, I’m still new or because of my SU (Scripture Union) looks.
’’Safety classes for female drivers
The issue of safety cannot be overemphasised in the ride–hailing sectors It becomes more pertinent with women joining the busines. There have been reports of how criminal passengers have gruesomely murdered male drivers and made away with their cars. Drivers have also protested against the killings in Abuja and Lagos, urging operators of the services to ensure adequate security.
However, there’s no safety measure or training in place for female ride-hailing drivers.She said she only took precautions as there were no existing safety measures.
She said, “I don’t think there is any safety training in place. We only inspect our cars quarterly. And most times, I don’t go to places I am not familiar with. Then I don’t go to far places because I am not familiar with the state of the roads.”
Ore said that certain places were no-go areas for her, adding that she hardly works at night.
She said, “Once someone orders a ride to a distant location that I don’t know, I wouldn’t honour the request. I don’t ride at night because we all know the situation in this country. It’s not safe for men not to talk about female drivers. We have heard of many terrible stories, I wouldn’t want to be a victim of such.”
For Ebube, she said before she started the business, she read up on safety measures which she applied to her daily operation for precaution.
She said, “I had no one to talk to about safety concerns. The internet came to the rescue; I looked up the stories of other women drivers and hinged my security on God.’’She said, “I had no one to talk to about safety concerns. The internet came to the rescue; I looked up the stories of other women drivers and hinged my security on God.’’
Oluwadare said one cannot be too careful, stating that if someone looked a bit suspicious from appearance, she wouldn’t take the request.
She said,” Once I see a person dressed funny or looking somehow, I wouldn’t go with the ride. Also, as much as I would love to work at night because I would have the opportunity to make more money, I don’t drive at night. It’s dangerous. There are desperate and wicked people out there.”
For Iruobe, she prays every day before leaving the house for work.
She stated, “Prayers have been my watchword. I pray every day before leaving the house. In fact, before picking a passenger, I pray for myself and even the client.”