Smart LivingAre women leaders behind Lyft’s successive growth?
There are some industries that, on the face of it at least, appear to be unisex in nature.
However, on closer inspection, there are those that don’t really cater for the needs of women at all – taxi rides and lift-sharing being chief among them.
In 2018, for example, there were more than 3,000 sexual assault claims made by women against Uber drivers, and the furor was so significant that the company was forced to add a section to its website entitled ‘Women’s safety.’
Now, this is not to suggest that all Uber drivers are bad people – far from it – but the lack of action, and a business model that allows some pretty nefarious characters to offer lifts on a globally recognized platform, is a major concern.
This sector, therefore, clearly needs reform, and it’s perhaps no surprise that a female-driven company has emerged to become a serious contender within the ride-hiring industry.
Lyfting the spirits
In essence, there is nothing new or unique about Lyft’s business model – this is a platform via which you can book a ride at a designated time and place, which in itself is as old as time.
However, the difference here is the brains behind the operation – nearly 50% of the firm’s executive board members are female.
This is pertinent for a couple of reasons: firstly, the fact that such a ratio exists is still mind-bogglingly unusual in modern business (research found that men made up around 83% of the executive positions at Top 100 companies in America), but secondly, this is a company that has a clear understanding of the dangers for women when using a lift-hire service.
Also, crucially, this wasn’t just in strategy-focused roles – women also lead the engineering and production divisions, and it’s no secret that Lyft has just secured a huge $550m investment after selling its self-driving vehicle division to Toyota.
The firm’s own research revealed that 60% of passengers in rideshares are female, and so clearly having the perspective of women in senior positions was an absolute no-brainer. Decision-makers at the firm realized that security was a key consideration at a time when Uber was courting controversy, and so they implemented further background checks on their prospective drivers before they were allowed to advertise on the service – crucial in weeding out those with bad intentions.
As Tali Rapaport, the VP of Product at Lyft, has said: “It’s easier to be a great leader in a product space when you can anticipate the needs of your users.”
The upshot is that Lyft has gatecrashed a sector that was once almost monopolistic in Uber’s favor. As of February 2021, Lyft had an estimated market share of 32% in North America.
Taking down the big gun
Go back a few years and Uber was enjoying the fruits of its first-mover advantage – its market share was in excess of 90% in the ridesharing space in America.
It’s borderline madness to try to take down such a dominant powerhouse – like a local store trying to compete with Amazon – but Lyft knew that it had a second-mover advantage: treating the safety of its passengers with the utmost importance.
The firm set about building a team that could implement its vision of ridesharing done better, and the recruitment of Kira Wampler as CMO set the tone. She was an innovator in marketing at Intuit before making the switch, and her ability to position Lyft as a genuine competitor to Uber was absolutely vital in the firm’s growth.
Rapaport oversaw the development of the Groupon brand from its steady early days to the heights that it has subsequently reached.
A crucial part of Lyft’s growth has been eating into Uber’s market share and positioning itself as a genuine alternative – rather than as a minnow in a pool dominated by one rather hefty shark. Key to this has been the appointment of Susan Kennedy as VP of Communications.
Considered a thought leader in improving California’s environmental program, Kennedy also served as chief of staff to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and founded the energy storage company Advanced Microgrid Solutions.
The trio’s appointment took Lyft to an all-new level and has helped the brand to establish itself as an operator no longer chipping away at Uber’s dominance but actively endangering it.
In a post-COVID world, there will be a general reluctance to use public transport for obvious reasons, and while ridesharing took a dip during the lockdowns, there will be an appetite for its safe return as America ambles towards some kind of normality.
When passengers start seeking out a ride to the office or a restaurant, there’s every chance that they will consider Lyft as their go-to service provider – a notion powered by its female-driven board of decision-makers.
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