Driving Toward Equality


Women across the world face higher barriers to accessing paid work and transportation compared with men. They are less likely to participate in paid work, not necessarily because they are less educated or qualified, but often because women tend to shoulder a disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care, or because their ability to work in certain industries—or outside the home at all—is restricted. They tend to work fewer hours, in less senior roles, and in less well-paid industries. Women also face more constraints than men on their ability to travel. These include affordability, access to vehicles, personal security concerns, and, in some countries, social norms around independent movement. This not only limits women’s income-generation opportunities but it also restricts development and social mobility by curbing their access to health, education, and other services—both for themselves and for children or other relatives they care for. This report explores the potential of the sharing economy, and the ride-hailing industry in particular, to address these gender gaps. Sharing economy business models can increase the utility of productive assets and lower costs for users while reducing the consumption of scarce resources. However, technological progress—especially the proliferation of smartphones and ever-increasing digital connectivity—has supercharged these models and the effects are increasingly visible at the global level. The impact of sharing economy business models has been felt around the world. Globally, approximately two-thirds of consumers would be willing to participate in the sharing economy, with interest highest in emerging markets (Nielsen 2014a). This wide reach makes it increasingly necessary to consider how the sharing economy can open new economic opportunities. However, to date, one subject has been notably absent in the research: a better understanding of the differences in how men and women participate in the sharing economy, and whether and how it has helped to close gender gaps. The opportunities and risks of sharing economy models are perhaps particularly important for women because they have both more to gain from increased participation, and more to lose if they are excluded from new forms of work, income, or assets. Ride-hailing is a pioneer of the modern sharing economy: an estimated 18 percent of people globally have used a ridehailing service in the past 12 months (Holmes 2017), and current estimates anticipate an eightfold increase in ridehailing by 2030, with total trips approaching 100 million a day (Burgstaller et al. 2017). In many ways, ride-hailing is an ideal industry in which to examine the opportunities and barriers that women face in the sharing economy. Women have embraced ride-hailing as riders, yet little work has been done to understand how it serves their complex transportation needs. Filling this knowledge gap can not only expand the ride-hailing market, but also offer new pathways to improve women’s limited mobility—a persistent barrier to closing gender gaps in economic, social, and civic participation.