Uber was never much for optics, but watchers were still stunned when it accepted $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in June 2016. The investment was the largest ever for PIF, the kingdom’s main investment fund, and gave managing director Yasir Al Rumayyan a seat on Uber’s board.
“Uber has taken a $3.5 billion investment from a government that effectively prohibits women from driving—let alone driving for Uber,” Dan Primack wrote in Fortune at the time. “The company has basically invited the Saudi government into its board room.”
A year later the picture could hardly be more different. Saudi Arabia has decreed that women will be allowed to drive, without their male guardian’s permission. The Saudi Arabian Transport Authority is reportedly “ready to provide job opportunities for Saudi youth of both sexes.” Uber is planning a specialized training center for Saudi women who want to drive on its ride-hailing platform.
Uber …