50th St. Gallen Symposium "Freedom Revisited": 7–8 May 2020


Putting Women in the Driver’s Seat

In 2016, Toronto-based entrepreneur Aisha Addo founded DriveHER, a ride-sharing service for women by women. The service fills two needs, she says: First, it provides women with an alternative to other transportation services where they feel comfortable and safe from harassment by male drivers. Second, it’s a way to create jobs for women in this sector -- and protect drivers from intrusive or abusive customers, too.

The idea came after many women shared their experience of being harassed - either verbally or physically - by male cab drivers. Addo herself remembers having been in uncomfortable situations during cab rides. But, Addo says, “the purpose of the company is not to bash men, it is more about empowering women to take their safety into their own hands and give them a choice.”

Addo has been working to make the world a better place for women since graduating from George Brown College in Toronto with a degree in Business Administration Accounting. Before starting the ride-sharing service, Addo -- now 28 -- founded the Power to Girls Foundation, a nonprofit working in the greater Toronto area and in Ghana. The organisation provides a mentorship and leadership program for young girls to encourage and support them.

When founding my company, I thought of how to make it a social enterprise.
Aisha Addo

Addo knows the importance of support during adolescence can be first hand. At the age of 14, she left Ghana and moved to Canada where she saw herself confronted with a lot of new challenges: As an immigrant and person of colour without a circle of close friends, she felt lost and isolated in her new home. She had no one to turn to with her personal problems. Her plan for the foundation was to create a social safety net for girls in similar situations. “I want to give the girls the support and mentorship I wished for when I was younger,” she says.

For Addo, being an entrepreneur is not about making a profit. Instead, she focuses on the social impact of her work. “When founding my company,” she says, “I thought of how to make it a social enterprise.

As far as Addo is concerned, using capital for social good is part of a successful business. One of the most important questions businesspeople have to think about, she says, is whether entrepreneurship and social responsibility are compatible. For Addo, the answer seems to be yes: In 2018, her women-only ride-sharing service really took off. DriveHER now has 60 women drivers; about 3,000 customers downloaded the app and signed up during the beta-phase.