Women in standardization: female empowerment for a better world

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According to a recent report from global consulting firm McKinsey 1), if women played an identical role to men in the labour market, we could add as much as USD 28 trillion, or 26 %, to the annual global Gross Domestic Product by 2025. In the field of international standardization, women contribute actively in many different and significant ways. 

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017, ISO reached out to some of the many women leaders and experts in our network with some questions about their experiences to highlight the importance of women’s engagement with standards development. 


How can we get more women into standards development?
Bronwyn Evans
Bronwyn Evans

Bronwyn Evans, ISO Vice-President (finance): We will get more women into standards development by being relevant, by being important and by being international.

Dr Lyne Cormier, Chair of ISO/TC 6, Paper, board and pulpsAttracting more women to standardization relies on having a higher proportion of women experts in technical fields, where today they are often under-represented. This starts by teaching girls at a young age that they can become whoever they want to be and work in any discipline they choose. It also starts by giving all girls and young women in the world access to education from grade school to University.

Angelique Botha
Dr  Angelique Botha

Dr Angelique Botha, Chair of REMCO (Committee on reference materials): We need to showcase women with successful careers in standards development, which I guess is very much the idea of this ISO Q&A article and the plans for International Women’s Day! 


What advice would you give young women starting their careers?

Bronwyn Evans: My advice is simple: you can do anything. Be bold, ask questions, be curious and always, always look to learn something.

Lyne Cormier
Dr Lyne Cormier

Dr Lyne Cormier: Feeling that your contribution has an impact is quite motivating, so try to select jobs or projects that offer you opportunities to make a difference.

Use your voice and stand up for yourself. Don’t expect that your work will always speak for itself.

Dr Angelique Botha: Identify a good mentor early in your career.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman or somebody in your field, but it must be somebody that you feel you can learn from, somebody whose career inspires you.  Evaluate your profiles at the beginning of the mentoring relationship so that you will know from the start how you can work together to learn from each other.

And, seize every opportunity to network, to learn and to be challenged.

What are some of the challenges and some of the perks of working in standardization? 
Liu Mei
Liu Mei

Liu Mei, Secretary of ISO/TC 207/SC 7, Greenhouse gas management and related activitiesThe challenges I have overcome include gaining knowledge in technical areas, communicating and coordinating with different people, and learning to navigate the impact of different cultures. The perks of working in standardization are the attraction of making a better world and the joy of working with people from all over the world.

Ranyee Chiang, Chair of ISO/TC 285, Clean cookstoves and clean cooking solutions (see picture above): Developing standards is fundamentally challenging – our task is to confront differences of opinion and build global agreement.  The challenges do lead to the perks as well.  I’ve found that many people in the standards world, because they have so much experience with different views, are amazingly level-headed and harmonious.  They understand how to face disagreements with patience and efficiency, and it is wonderful to be part of this collaborative community.

Paola Visintin
Paola Visintin

Paola Visintin, Secretary of ISO/TC 270, Plastics and rubber machinesAs the first woman hired as a national and international technical officer in UNI history, I have become very used to working with male colleagues. Having said that, it was, and still is, a challenge. Indeed, if on the one hand I am treated kindly, on the other hand on many occasions I feel I have to demonstrate my competencies both in meetings and in relationships with colleagues in the office. This trend is decreasing, but I feel that much work is still to be done.

Standardization is a field where reaching consensus is the basis of the work, the perk for me is to reach this objective. The experts expect the secretary to mediate their interests and I perceive that they prefer having a woman to carry out this task.

Janine Winkler, Secretary of ISO/TC 274, Light and lightingA continuous challenge in standardization, is how to best involve the end users of the standards from different countries. In order to facilitate participation, communication and common understanding, ISO/TC 274 tries to hold its meetings in different countries all over the world. I find this contact with different cultures is a wonderful and enriching opportunity.


Why should women participate in standardization?

Liu Mei: Women should participate in standardization to contribute their strength to make the world a better place, to promote life, work, education, etc., and to help the next generation move towards a brilliant future.

Janine Winkler
Janine Winkler

Janine Winkler:Working in standardization brings women in contact with other leading experts in their fields allowing networking, which could be helpful in the further development of their careers.

Ranyee Chiang: Around the world, women and girls are more burdened by poverty and poor infrastructure than men and boys.  Standardization can help us ease these burdens and achieve equality by bringing the world together to develop shared goals and solutions.  Because these shared goals are defined by people participating in standardization, the standardization process must include women.  


ISO thanks all the women around the world who contribute to international standardization. Hopefully, the examples of these women experts and leaders who work in international standardization will inspire others to pursue careers in this field. Happy International Women’s Day! 

1) Source: The Power of Parity, September 2015, McKinsey Global Institute, Mckinsey & Company

Maria Lazarte
Maria Lazarte