Chantal Guay, CEO of the Standards Council of Canada, has joined standards leaders from around the world in signing the Declaration on Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development.
The declaration was developed by the Gender Responsive Standards Initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. It affirms the pervasive role of standards in society, and recognizes that their content — as well as engagement in the standards development process — are opportunities for women’s empowerment.
“Every day I see how standards shape our world and improve our quality of life,” said Guay, who became the SCC’s first female CEO in April 2018. “But these incredible tools can — and must — do more to empower women, by also reflecting our needs.”
While women make up more than half the employees of the Standards Council of Canada, women are underrepresented in the world of standards at large. That includes Canada’s own committees for developing international standards. Currently, women make up only a quarter of Canada’s participants in International Organization for Standardization (ISO) technical committees, and only nine per cent of participants in International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) technical committees. This is in spite of the fact that Canada’s labour market is 47 per cent female.
Research is needed on the implications of women’s underrepresentation in standards. However, the content of certain standards clearly suggests an impact. One example is ISO 3411, a standard for mobile forestry machinery. Earlier versions of the standard explicitly specified it was for male operators; the latest edition published in 2007 specifies dimensions for males and females. It’s unclear how many other standards still require revision to meet women’s specific needs. It’s also vital for standards being developed today to avoid similar shortcomings.
Each signatory to the Declaration on Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development pledges to create and implement a gender action plan for their organization. SCC has already committed to an ambitious plan to unfold over the next five years, with three major goals:
- To improve gender representation in Canada’s standardization system;
- To build gender expertise to facilitate the development of gender responsive standards; and
- To contribute sound research to this area of study.
The declaration opened for signature May 14 in Geneva, Switzerland. SCC was joined as a signatory by several national standards bodies as well as ASTM International, an SCC-accredited standards development organization. Stephen de Boer — Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization, based in Geneva — was in attendance. The declaration is in line with Canada’s federal priorities, including policies around Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) — a process by which an initiative can be examined for its impacts on diverse groups of women and men.
Chantal Guay also joined standards leaders from around the world in posting video messages of support for the declaration on UNECE’s YouTube channel.
“Including women’s priorities and participation in standards will further support Canada’s commitment to gender equality,” noted Guay.