“Driving Women Towards Empowerment and Safety” is the slogan of a new ride hailing company.
Chariot for Women, a Massachusetts startup, is a ride hailing company whose drivers and passengers are always and only women.
The females-only company employs “the safest practices to give the most secure and fun rideshare experience in the industry, driven by women, for women.”
Chariot for Women will “allow women to make some extra income and drive as little or as much as they like, 24 hours day, knowing they are in a safe environment picking up women and children only.”
The company may, however, not be legal.
Joseph L. Sulman, a employment law expert, spoke to The Boston Globe about the legality of Chariot for Women’s business model. “This company sounds great. Whether it’s legal or not is a different question.”
“To limit employees to one gender, you have to have what the law calls a bona fide occupational qualification. And that’s a really strict standard,” Sulman said. “For gender, it’s not enough to say, ‘we really just want to have a female here because our customers prefer that to feel safer.”
The New York-based SheRides/SheTaxis is a rideshare company that is “tailored to the needs of women.” It does not, however, exclude men. It is unclear if Chariot for Women will follow a similar model or will seek to only employ and serve women.
Safety is of the utmost importance to Chariot For Women. Before drivers can accept rides, they must pass a background check; passengers are provided with a picture of their driver, and the make and license plate of their chariot. The company even uses a passcode system that ensures both passengers and drivers that they are in fact meeting the correct individual.
“Every time the driver starts her day, she has to answer a random security question that changes daily to ensure her identity. When the passenger requests a ride, a safe word pops up on the driver and passenger’s phone. If the driver says the correct word, the ride may begin. If the driver doesn’t have the same safe word, the passenger then knows immediately not to get into that Chariot, and will then look for the correct vehicle.”
Founder Michael Pelletz came up with the idea in February 2016, when he was driving for Uber 17 hours a day in Boston.
Born out of the controversy that has surrounded other ride hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, Chariot for Women’s website recounts the story of an incoherent passenger that made Pelletz feel unsafe.
“What if I was a woman?” Pelletz couldn’t help thinking. “How would a woman handle that situation, especially when I was so nervous myself?”
Pelletz recalled the conversations that he had with “thousands of women over the years” who had been interested in working in the livery industry. He noted that they all said they would 100 percent never drive at night if they became professional drivers.
With her passion for charitable giving, Kelly Pelletz—Michael’s wife and Chariot for Women’s president—devised a fare system where 2 percent of every fare goes to “women-based charities.” Passengers even have the ability choose to which charity benefits from their “simple ride across town.”
It remains to be seen if Chariot for Women is legal, but with plans to launch on April 19, the issue will have to be decided sooner rather than later.