Original Article, Forbes.com
“I think that every woman that gets into a car has that initial fear,” says Ingrid Newman of Costa Mesa, Calif. She says she feels it every time she calls a Lyft to take her elderly mother to her weekly salon appointment. “When I see the screen and a man’s face pops up, I have an initial ‘Oh my goodness’ feeling. I don’t want to stereotype, but it’s just a fear that a woman has because you just don’t know.”
A new ride-hailing service hopes to make that fear a thing of the past, by having women drivers serving women passengers. Called See Jane Go, it debuted this morning in Orange County, Calif.
See Jane Go’s CEO Kimberly Toonen says that women currently make up about 25 percent of drivers of traditional ride shares such as Uber and Lyft; I’ve been their passenger myself on many occasions. Some have told me they feel anywhere from mildly harassed to downright threatened by some of their male passengers. One in a resort area told me that she stops driving after about 10PM, when passengers are likely to have been drinking.
Although the overwhelming majority of ride shares are without incident, Toonen cites “alarming statistics” that among assaults that do occur in these vehicles, 97 percent were by men. That, she says, stops women from capitalizing on this service – both as passengers and drivers. “There is a clear sense of trepidation amongst women, causing them to be slow adopters of the driver opportunity.”
From its launch in the OC (between Los Angeles and San Diego), Toonen says the company has “aggressive plans to expand to cities across the country.”
If you’re familiar with Uber or Lyft, you’ll understand the how See Jane Go works. Drivers and passengers register on the website or via the See Jane Go smartphone app. After a certification and training process, drivers are allowed to pick up passengers, who hail and pay through the app.
One big difference, Toonen says: “Uber is in the transportation business; Jane is in the transformation business,” says Toonen, calling See Jane Go “an entry point for women.”
Beyond providing income comparable to Uber and Lyft (plus tips), See Jane Go sees itself as providing opportunities for drivers to build their own business. Mentors, called “Super Janes,” get company stock for helping to bring on board new drivers (who are called “Baby Janes”).
“Our ultimate goal,” Toonen says, “is to create a worldwide platform to give women access to the jobs, transportation, goods, services and opportunities that will help them live their best lives.”
Plus, womens pjs she says, “Two percent of See Jane Go’s net revenue will soon be donated to charitable organizations supporting the empowerment and upward mobility of women worldwide.”
Can men come along for the ride? Sure, as passengers, accompanied by a female passenger.