Uber and Careem prep for women drivers as ban lifts in Saudi Arabia

When women's rights and economic growth align.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
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The ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was lifted on Sunday.

Yousef Doubisi/AFP/Getty Images

Women might drive for Uber and Careem in Saudi Arabia soon.

The ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was lifted on Sunday, and ride-hailing services Uber and Careem say they'll start preparations and training for female drivers to join their workforces, reported Forbes Middle East.

"We are delighted to welcome these pioneering women to Careem and in line with Careem's commitment to create job opportunities across the wider Middle East region," said Careem CEO Mudassir Sheikha in an email statement. "We've set a longer-term target of having 20,000 females signed up region-wide by 2020." 

Currently around 70% of Careem's passengers in Saudi Arabia are women, according to the company, service as such helps women move around without having to be driven by a male relative. Uber plans to roll out a feature this fall that will allow women to choose to be connected to female riders, reported Forbes.

"We are honored to play a part in this historic moment for women in Saudi Arabia. By empowering female entrepreneurs, Uber is proud to provide the same economic opportunities currently enjoyed by male drivers across the Kingdom," said Pierre Dimitri Gore-Coty, the head of operations for Uber EMEA. "We have partnered with Saudi women to explore how Uber can work for them, and we will continue listening as we build the future of urban mobility in Saudi Arabia together."

Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative countries for women in the world. Only one in five Saudis employed in the country are women, reported Quartz. Inconvenient transportation has played a role in blocking women from pursuing jobs because they previously needed male relatives to provide rides, according to Quartz. As the ban lifts, new opportunities are available for Saudi women, including being Uber and Careem drivers.

Uber launched in Saudi Arabia in 2014 and Careem came along a year later, with the latter operating mainly in the Middle East. Uber accepted $3.5 billion from the government's Public Investment Fund in June 2016 and gave Saudi Arabia a seat on its board, reported Quartz.

First published on June 25, 9:42 a.m. PT.

Updated, 11:07 a.m. PT: Adds Careem CEO Mudassir Sheikha statement.

Updated, 2:03 p.m. PT: Adds Uber EMEA Head of Operations Pierre Dimitri Gore-Coty statement.

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