Lyft rolled out a new feature Tuesday in five U.S. cities, including Chicago and San Francisco, that lets women and nonbinary drivers set a preference for picking up only women riders. The preference feature, called Women+ Connect, could help Lyft attract more women drivers to the app, which today stands at about 23%.
The move follows Uber, which first introduced a similar feature in Saudi Arabia in 2019 and expanded globally in March 2023.
While just a quarter of Lyft’s ride-hailing app’s drivers are women, about 50% are riders. Lyft has long been aware of the woman driver-to-rider gap, according to Audrey Liu, Lyft’s head of design. A concerted effort to increase the presence of women on the app began in 2019, but was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new plan — and what would ultimately become Women+ Connect — was launched earlier this year after David Risher was hired as CEO of the company, Liu said, adding that work on the feature began soon after his first official day at Lyft.
“Over the years, one thing that we’ve heard from women drivers and prospective women drivers is that if they had an opportunity to match or an option to match with more women riders, they would be more inclined to try rideshare or if they’re already driving, they’d be more inclined to drive more,” Liu said in a recent interview.
The “drive more” part is important. Liu noted that many women actually go through the entire onboarding process only to drop out before giving a ride.
“You really do have to remove some of these barriers to entry around giving them more confidence to get behind the wheel,” she added.
Liu emphasized that this is a preference feature, not a guarantee. Women and nonbinary drivers can turn on an option within the app that will prioritize matches with other nearby women and nonbinary riders. If there are no women riders in the area, drivers who have the preference feature turned on will still be matched with men, she explained.
Riders also have control over the feature. Once the feature goes live in a city, women and nonbinary riders will be prompted in their Lyft app to select “Count me in,” which increases their chances of matching with women and nonbinary drivers.
Lyft launched the feature Tuesday in Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, California. Liu said the intention is to bring the feature to more cities in the near future.