Selfie at 2019 Micromobility California Summit

Is Micromobility A Movement, Or Just An Investment?

To unlock the revolutionary potential of small electric vehicles, the micromobility movement needs more diverse voices.

THE DRIVE | FEBRUARY 7, 2019

by Courtney Ehrlichman

“Equity is not just about your cap table,” the MC reminded the audience at last week’s Micromobility California Summit, held across the bay from San Francisco in Richmond, California's Craneway Building.  More than 600 attendees had poured into what was once the largest Ford factory on the west coast to take stock of the fastest-growing trend in mobility.  We were gathered together under Horace Dediu - the analyst who predicted the explosion of the iPhone - to celebrate his next forecast: the disruption of the transportation system by the new wave of micromobility and with it, the market for miles (see Niedermeyer’s excellent wrap up of the event here).  

But let’s not talk about miles, let’s talk about people.

The large, airy industrial structure the Summit inhabited was drenched in transportation history, serving as a beacon of disruptive innovation and the democratization of personal mobility.  It was also home to the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, which honors the first women working in war industry and lauds the new social constructs formed to resolve the challenges they faced.  One such obstacle was the women worker’s need for childcare, which ultimately led to the establishment of the early childhood development profession and the opening of child development centers. Though the potential parallels between the rise of the car and the emerging micromobility movement are clear, what's less obvious is whether the growth of small electric vehicles would bring about similar social progress.

Some early signs suggest there is a lot of work to be done. After taking my seat in the third row of lecture-style seats I took a half-selfie with the audience behind me for my first tweet of the day. It instantly received a comment: "Says great things about your industry when a snapshot of your conference shows women outnumbered by men ~20:1 and not a black person in sight.”