Shebah is a new all-female ride share app that’s set to launch in Australia in the coming weeks. This unique service offers women a safer alternative to public transport, and closes the gender gap on the male dominated taxi industry that often make them feel unsafe.
After hearing consistent horror stories about the way female taxi and Uber passengers across Australia were being treated, Shebah founder and mother of four George McEnroe decided to act.
“There’s got to be a better way,” McEnroe recounts.
“Looking at the vulnerability of drunk women in the back of cabs is pretty confronting,” says McEnroe
“The girls I had been coaching in basketball would come back with stories of very wildly inappropriate behaviour, of being kissed, touched or propositioned by male drivers.”
Sexual assault and harassment of women on public transport and in taxi services is a very real concern.
Just a few months ago a WA taxi driver was jailed for five years over the sexual assault of two female passengers. Recently, a Victorian Uber driver was arrested over the alleged assault of his female passenger. These are not isolated incidents. According to the Victorian police LEAP database, since 2011 the Taxi Directorate has taken industry action on 865 criminal offences including: rape; murder; and indecent assault - just to name just a few. It’s not just the threat of sexual or physical violence that makes women feel uncomfortable in a taxi or Uber.
McEnroe recalls stories of friends being bullied and intimidated by taxi drivers while they sat in the front seat and were watched while they gave an app rating.
Appalled and outraged at this apparently common occurrence, in early 2016 she decided to launch a service that no one else was offering in the Australian ride-share space.
Taking advantage of an untapped market
Shebah is an all-female ride sharing service launching imminently in Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
The interest has been high with 607 drivers currently registered across various states and another 707 applications waiting to be processed. McEnroe says the aim is to have 200 drivers available in every state by the time Shebah launches officially in a few weeks, but they won’t be able to match Uber’s numbers “for some time”.
Customers will still enjoy the convenience of the Uber app as Shebah’s app is available for Android and Apple devices with the same mapping, payment and driver alert features as other popular ride share apps.
But Shebah offers a more simplified payment process. Passengers have the option of using one credit card per four people. For example, a mother and her three daughters would be able to pay the total fare on one card, rather than having to organise separate payments.
Even the drivers will be paid better than their ride share competitors. Uber drivers get to keep 75% of the total fare price for a given ride, but Shebah lets drivers keep 85% including GST.
In addition to being inspired to create a safe transport system for women, Shebah is also taking advantage of an untapped market.
At last count in 2015, only 12 per cent of Uber’s 20,000 Australian drivers were women. The proportion of female taxi drivers isn’t much better at just 2.5 per cent.
There is a similar all-female ride share service in the US – Safr – but no others in Australia to date.
A lack of representation plus a desperate need for safe transport makes Shebah the perfect up-and-coming business idea.
But Shebah is not without its critics.
In 2016 when the company was first founded, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews expressed his support for Shebah on his Facebook page. But some members of the public did not agree.
But McEnroe is not perturbed by the backlash.
“Men are no less safe because Shebah exists,” she says.
“No man’s life will be made more difficult because Shebah exists. No man’s safety of movement or access to transport will be diminished because Shebah exists. Life will not be impeded in any way.”
Shebah’s app will be fully operational in selected states in the coming weeks.