Uber pledges to enlist 1 million female drivers by 2020

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken in Madrid on December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/Files

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Ride-hailing app Uber, under the microscope due to a handful of driver assaults on passengers in some cities, pledged in a blog post on Tuesday to sign up 1 million female drivers around the world by 2020.

The ride service did not provide comparable figures for how many women drivers are on the Uber service worldwide at present. In the United States, about 14 percent of its 160,000 drivers are female, the company said. Uber said it adds thousands more drivers each month.

“Uber does not require (minimum) hours, and it does not require a schedule,” Salle Yoo, Uber’s general counsel, said in an interview on Monday, referring to why women might find working for Uber attractive. “It offers the chance to be entrepreneurial, the chance to balance work and family.”

Female passengers will not yet have the ability to request female drivers, Yoo said. She emphasized the app’s safety features, including the notification of the driver’s identity received by customers on their phones beforehand, and the ability to share via text message an estimated arrival time with others.

The pledge comes as the rapidly expanding company deals with fallout over incidents of assaults by drivers from Boston and Chicago to Delhi.

In the highest-profile case, an Indian woman said in December her driver raped her in Delhi, leading to outcries and a temporary ban of Uber in that city.

The female driver initiative is timed to coincide with a United Nations gathering in New York on Tuesday evening to celebrate women’s rights, at which Yoo will speak. Uber is partnering with the UN on its million-women driver goal.

Uber screens drivers, including the use of background checks that vary from country to country. It does not hire drivers as full employees. Instead, it lets them use the smartphone-based app to connect them to passengers looking for a paid ride, and takes a cut of the fare.

Reporting by Sarah McBride; editing by Jeremy Laurence and Matthew Lewis