Business News of Thursday, 21 December 2017
Today, all over the world, women have been empowered to attain their full potential and explore areas that bring them comfort, reveal their strength and contribute to the economy of the nation they find themselves in.
Meet Bernie-Asher Makafui Grey, Ghana’s first female Uber driver, or Uber businesswoman, if you like. With a fleet of seven cars, she is not taking the whole Uber thing lightly at all. Having previously worked at Stanbic Bank, Millicom Ghana Limited and K-net, one would wonder why this enterprising young woman has not sought the ‘finer’ jobs of life, as it were, in her rise to greatness; but has decided to drive people around, with all the risks involved.
Uber is a transportation service company that connects prospective passengers to drivers using a geo-App that automatically links the two parties according to proximity. The company entered Ghana in June 2016 and has since taken over a large proportion of the market in the transport industry.
The exact number of registered drivers and fleet owners is not known but globally there are very few female Uber drivers: even in the U.S, where the company originates, just about 14% of the drivers are women. Here in Ghana, there are only 5 registered female Uber drivers of which Bernie is the first.
According to her, some few years ago, she made the very difficult decision to quit her job as a salesperson, started some entrepreneurial initiatives for two years before finally joining Uber in March 2017, to fulfil her dream of driving.
She loves the art of driving and the customer experience. She makes close to GH¢600 a week, with an average daily earning of GH¢150. Bernie describes the business as very lucrative which, “however, requires a lot of patience and tolerance for jittery and edgy customers.”
Despite stories of inappropriate behaviour – abuse and sexual harassment etc. – that are mostly reported by female Uber drivers globally, Bernie stated that she has never faced any such incident in her eight months of being an Uber driver.
She added that people love her naturally, which has made it easier for her to get along with passengers.
She describes herself as a “people’s person,” and that she loves to solve the commuting problems of her passengers in any legitimate way she can. “I love customers and I love to drive as well. It just came naturally to venture into becoming an Uber driver.”
Most passengers are eager to meet her when they realise she is female. “I engage most of them in conversations when they reach out. I can always tell how intrigued they are that I am a woman and always want to find out how and why I started the job.”
Touching on the challenges she faces, she lamented that sometimes she receives low ratings from gender-phobic passengers who normally don’t trust a woman’s ability to drive safely without accidents, a stereotype she has had to deal with since she joined the business.
Starting with just one car, Bernie doubled her sales by working extra hours and, in the space of eight months, she has been able to secure 6 other cars which are managed by her company – Beam Logistics.
“I realised that there are some drivers who actually want to drive Uber but because they are not well-trained and are timid, they tend to find it difficult in pursuing it. So, I train them on the psychometric test they write. I tell them what it is and teach them about customer service as well, register them and take them through the process.”
It remains to be seen whether Bernie’s perseverance and courage can motivate other women to overcome the stereotype and join the service, especially in the light of high unemployment in the country. She hopes to invest her earnings into her company and eventually own a larger fleet of vehicles.