Women Drivers Driving Change
She was an investment banker. But the story of a Delhi woman compromised by her driver spurred her into action.
I DON’T DRIVE”
Once she conceived of the idea of creating a woman-led car service, employing only women drivers, Vandana Suri recognized there was only one way to build the brand. She had to become a driver herself. She started TAXSHE in Bangalore, where she lives and works. Driving and being on the front lines, Vandana learned first hand the hurdles women-drivers would be up against: women felt unsafe accepting passengers who might compromise them. Women felt unsafe in streets they were unfamiliar with and ending up lost.
Women–didn’t know how to drive.
Vandana went into the slums and the rural parts of India, where women settled for careers as maids, cooks, sometimes sex trafficked, and offered them an alternative career. Today, her trainers teach women how to drive for 6-8 months. The women also drive with their teachers on the streets of Bangalore and Delhi to learn about the parts that are most unsafe. Vandana had a vision. She wouldn’t cater to the retail customer. She forged recurring contracts with women and children who headed to school each day. This way, her drivers had routines they could count on, a steady income to count on.
Safety they could count on.
Today, Vandana has trained hundreds of women to become “Roos” or surrogate moms, ferrying mothers and children to school each day. (Sorry, no men allowed. Even if it’s dad.) Her female drivers are compensated well. The $120 a month eventually skyrocketed to $1000 a month for some. Now Vandana is subleasing cars to her women drivers, with a view to not only hand off ownership of the car once paid off, but to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship in them.
Vandana is in New York today because the World Bank has given her an award for her work with TAXSHE. Her work aligns with UN sustainability goals seeking empowerment of women. The unsung piece of TAXSHE is that children are kept out of harm’s way, ending the cycle of child abuse. Thank you to LadyDrinks member Shruti Sharma Vazirani for making this introduction.
Is there a woman making a difference in the world in an entrepreneurial way that we should meet? Message me at email@example.com.
RECAP OF LADYDRINKS PARIS
Friday April 12th, LadyDrinks took to Paris. There is a contingent of women representing LadyDrinks New York who flew in. We hosted this event in conjunction with a women’s networking organization on the ground called @ParisForHer and the American Friends of the Louvre.
I got to Newark airport my standard 3.5 hours early Wednesday night for my flight. The airline, without any notice or announcement, had cancelled the flight. Young women, men, children, pretty, stout, stylish — — were standing around, slackjawed, without direction on next steps. After a year of planning, I was maybe not going to make my own event.
I rebooked us on another airline. Friday, after 8 hours of airport waiting, 6 hours of flying, and $2700 dollars spent, I screeched in the door as my 2pm event got underway.
We did a private tour of the House of Chanel, generously set up by the Louvre Endowment Fund. This was an important story to share at LadyDrinks. While many high fashion houses designed ‘princess’ like apparel, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel set out to dress the working woman with durable fabrics like tweed, pockets in garments, and low slingback heels. She was credited in the post-World War I era with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularizing a sporty, casual chic as the feminine standard of style.
Then we ubered to our 6pm event. We did a private tour of the Musee du Louvre. We were astounded to learn that, of the 400,000 pieces of art at the Louvre, ONLY 27 works are by women artists.
Art Historian Saskia Hanselaar took us on a journey of women who went unnamed in art history. Women regents who ruled instead of their young sons till they were of age. Women who restored valuable paintings. Women who were commissioned to paint valuable portraits of queens. My favorite story is that Marie Antoinette sponsored the entry of one female artist for formal training into prestigous Paris Academie. Afterwards, the ladies from ParisForHer and LadyDrinks enjoyed drinks at Cafe Marly and shared their thoughts on the tour.
I am grateful for my persistence. I am grateful for the financial wherewithal to rebook a flight. I am grateful for what will be a great event, despite the hurdles.