Why I don’t do Uber

I know a lot of people love the convenience of ride-sharing ride-sourcing services (RSs). I just can’t go there. I keep using taxis when I need them. And I’ve got my reasons.

It’s clear that these RSs have cut into the taxi market. Who drives taxis? Lots of immigrant (often nonwhite) men. And the municipal revenue that is generated from taxi licenses is also cut as fewer licenses are sought.

RS drivers obviously provide a substitute for taxi trips, but they are not subject to the same regulations and insurance requirements. If someone pays you to drive them somewhere, that’s a commercial use. That’s not ‘ride-sharing.’ And it definitely isn’t sharing if you wouldn’t have even been on the road otherwise.

If RS users have substituted away from taxis because they want a cheaper alternative, that has labor consequences. Lower prices almost always come with lower wages. So that means lower wages for immigrant (often nonwhite) men due to declining taxi demand. What about RS drivers? The overwhelming majority do this as a part-time side job. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone seeking more income. But is this the best way?

“Female cabbies are rare in Philly, but ride-sharing [sic] apps have opened new avenues for women drivers.” (source) Of course! Another low-paid job has sprung up; it’s perfect for the ladies. And they get to do more work, by providing emotional labor too. “When I get female customers now, especially late at night, they’re so thankful,” says Lyft driver Rasheedah Ahmad. (ibid) I bet they are.

And then there are the environmental impacts. I can’t tell you how often I am walking or biking around center city and a car pulls over to the curb in front of me, either to pick up or drop off a passenger. It’s obviously an RS because there’s one driver in the front and one passenger in the back. And they’re doodling away on their phones, presumably in the RS app.

What is the ‘next best alternative’? What would be happening if the RS didn’t exist?

The car companies, unsurprisingly, are bullish on their environmental impact. “By using Lyft to share rides, passengers are helping to reduce the carbon footprint left by our country’s dominant mode of transportation – driving alone,” said Tommy Hayes, the transportation policy manager at Lyft, in an emailed statement. (source)

Um, really? Sure, there are two people in the car during the paid trip, but the driver had to get to the passenger. And if the passenger gets another RS to go home, the driver again has to get to the passenger. That is more driving, not less.

And what would the passengers do if they couldn’t use a RS?

ridesourcingpiechart
Source: Shaheen and Chan (2015)

Eight percent of people would have stayed home. And a full 33% would have taken transit. 33%!!! And 39% would have taken a taxi. So while it is true that RSs are biting into the taxi market, that is not the majority of the effect.

And I love this quote:

Uber emphasizes that it is helping to reduce the need for personal car ownership. “Uber helps use today’s existing infrastructure more efficiently at no extra cost by getting more butts into the backseats of fewer cars,” a company spokesperson says. (ibid)

Huh? Where is the evidence to support that claim? You see more butts, eh?

What about all the RS drivers who are out driving SOLELY to take passengers to and fro? They are not ride-SHARING. They are ride-SELLING. I would rather they stay home and find another way to make money.

I don’t want to give myself an excuse to eschew public transit or not ride my bike. I don’t want to support a(nother) market that underpays women for more work. I don’t want to take work away from immigrant men. And I don’t want to support more people driving when they don’t need to. So you’ll see me on my Fuji or the 11 trolley. Maybe you’ll even see me in a yellow cab, but only if absolutely necessary.

Teams, Gender, and Collaboration

I’m always collecting data. I can’t help it, it’s just what I do. Here’s some data I collected from a meeting I recently attended:

  • Percentage of team members who are male: 20%
  • Percentage of women who completed all tasks assigned since previous meeting: 100%
  • Percentage of men who completed all tasks assigned since previous meeting: 0%
  • Percentage of women who collaborated as expected within stated team procedures, by meeting with committee members and seeking input: 100%
  • Percentage of men who made unilateral decisions and did not organize or convene the committees they chair: 100%
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As I observe myself at the meetings for this team, I am increasingly irritated. I believe I must appear ornery and contrarian. The fact of the matter is that I have more expertise (on certain matters) than both of the men who are acting unilaterally, and I struggle between being a ‘good girl,’ behaving, keeping my mouth shut,… and calling out the crap when I see it.

I understand that my ego is wrapped up in this. Everybody’s ego is wrapped up in everything. And yet, what’s best for the organization? How about we stick to the procedures we all agreed upon and assign tasks to those best suited for them?

But that requires the men in this group to cede some of their power, and they seem quite resistant to doing that.

Four essential elements of effective project management

Project management has one simple goal: complete the project. Whether the project is a book, a song, a fashion line, a fundraiser, or a major show, four essential elements emerge.

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The very first step to success is to establish a timeline, beginning with the end date and working backwards. (A Gantt chart is a great tool for this step.)

The second step is to determine the budget. How much is needed for the best possible execution of the project? And what is the bare-bones version? Do the research, and document the appropriate range for each expense category. What are the revenue sources? Document the best and worst case scenarios.

Now it is time to gather the full team. Of course, the process is constrained by the timeline and the budget. And in order to assemble the best team, everyone needs a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities.

Most project managers incorporate these three elements, even if they are not formally documented. Where many projects struggle is in the fourth essential element: adaptability.

The best leaders expect that roadblocks and challenges will arise, so they are not derailed by them. The best timelines allow for unforeseen delays, budgets have room for extra expenses, plans B and C and D have been considered. Adaptable managers are problem solvers who release attachment to details, while maintaining firm commitment to that one simple goal: complete the project.

Effective project management requires a keen understanding of what, when, how much, and by whom. The best managers consider many possible scenarios, but they also understand some surprising challenges will arise. Adaptability (with flexibility, resourcefulness, compromise, and creativity) is the key to true project success.

I took some online courses

While I am in the process of applying for full-time jobs, I have decided to devote chunks of my time to beef up my skills. I have been going full-force on Coursera, finishing courses in Learning how to learn, Influencing People, Introductory Python, Conflict resolution, and Leadership.

I would highly recommend the Learning How to Learn course from UC San Diego; it is almost perfect. Here’s a little video I put together to illustrate three concepts from the course.

Another gem I took from the course concerns dealing with procrastination by focusing on process, not on product. I have successfully used this mind-trick to ‘fool’ myself into getting to work on many occasions since I’ve learned it. I don’t need to finish, I just need to work! That’s eminently do-able.

Overall, I was disappointed in Michigan’s Influencing People course. It’s from a very traditional white male perspective, employing psychological examples from decades ago. Yes, the history of human behavior psychology is interesting, but what about the world we live in today, with all of its diversity and biases? 

On the other hand, Michigan’s Python course was very good, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in Python, even if you’re new to coding. The next course in this path starts soon—I’m excited!

I’ve decided to pursue two Coursera specializations: one in Conflict Resolution and another in the Savior-Relier technique of leadership. The content of the conflict resolution track is very good, I just wish it were presented more clearly. I kinda wanna get my hands on that course and help them fix it up, because it could be amaze-balls! And the Savior-Relier stuff is mind-blowing. Finally(!) I have found a leadership style that feels natural to me! It’s all about sensing and relationships as well as critical thinking. I am very excited about everything I will learn in that specialization.

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Sucky stuff in re women at work: link roundup

“The current study has implications for group decisions in general, and jury deliberations in particular, by suggesting that expressing anger might lead men to gain influence, but women to lose influence over others (even when making identical arguments).”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Woman in a Meeting: “I have to say — I’m sorry — I have to say this. I don’t think we should be as scared of non-fear things as maybe we are? If that makes sense? Sorry, I feel like I’m rambling.”

“[Jennifer Lawrence] says that she blamed herself for not negotiating harder but also explores why it was she didn’t push that hard. Admitting that it’s “difficult to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable” — she was negotiating over millions of dollars — she speaks to a dynamic that is all-too-relatable to the rest of us non-millionaire women too.”

“Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant.”

Results across experiments showed that men evaluate the gender-bias research less favorably than women, and, of concern, this gender difference was especially prominent among STEM faculty (experiment 2). These results suggest a relative reluctance among men, especially faculty men within STEM, to accept evidence of gender biases in STEM.”

Abrasive alone was used 17 times to describe 13 different women, but the word never appeared in men’s reviews. In fact, this type of character critique that was absent from men’s reviews showed up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.”