Diversity and Inclusion

Seeking Diversity and Inclusion in Standards Development

Diversity and inclusion, or D&I, involves the active and informed measures being taken by organizations to seek a wider range of life experiences, education, and views of its staff and membership. Seeking to mirror the population, organizations are setting goals for age, race, gender and more and actively pursuing applicants to meet those goals. 

In a recent study by Microsoft [1], the organization reflects on its progress in seeking a more diverse and inclusive workforce and identified small successes among women, having increased the percent to 28.6% of the global Microsoft workforce (a 1% gain from 2019). The organization also experienced small gains among racial and ethnic minorities and in the report, they outline a wide range of measures including outreach, training, professional development and allyship to further grow their community.  

Definition of Diversity from Merriam Webster

In standards development, some have stood up D&I or similarly named task groups, ally groups [2], and partnerships with associations for under-represented groups. Through these groups and commitments by the SDOs, progress is being made and the conversation continues within the industry as to what more can be done and what affect this lack of parity has on the standards being developed.

The Standards Council of Canada, SCC, a signatory to the UNECE Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development published a study in October 2020 entitled “When One Size Does Not Protect All: Understanding Why Gender Matters for Standardization” [3] which reflects their research into and efforts to address diversity and inclusion in their standards programs. A key take-away from the study is that participation in standards development by a given country showed a marked decrease in the unintentional death of men, but not women. And while increasing participation in standards further decreased the number of men unintentionally dying, it didn’t have the same affect on women in the population. The study suggests that “the failure of many standards to account for women may boil down to two inter-related factors: the lack of female representation in the development of standards and the lack of gender expertise in standards development.”

It would be interesting to see if similar cause and effect relationships can also be identified for race, age, and other demographic areas. If yes, then increasing diversity in these areas as well would have positive effects on the standards being developed – making them more beneficial to a wider range of users and increasing their potential safety features for those groups.

How can standards developers move forward? Seeking to increase the participation of a representative population of peoples, looking at gender, ethnicity and race, and geographic location, is one step. Also developing expertise of those groups and their needs within the committees through use of experts, training and more, and finally continuing to explore the reasons for low participation to ensure successful strategies can be identified and implement are key.

Women in Standards will be distributing our 2020 Inclusion in Standards survey in December 2020 and will seek inputs from SDOs from around the world and will seek to identify the percent implementing diversity program and successes they’ve enjoyed. If you’d like to participate in the study, reach out to admin@womeninstandards.org to be added to the outreach list.


[1] https://query.prod.cms.rt.microsoft.com/cms/api/am/binary/RE4H2f8

[2] Allyship is defined as “Allyship is the practice of emphasizing social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an ingroup, to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalized outgroup. Allyship is part of the anti-oppression or anti-racist conversation, which puts into use social justice theories and ideals.” Wikipedia.

[3] https://scc50ccn.ca/when-one-size-does-not-protect-all/

Continue your reading...

Inclusion in Standards surveys and articles

Body Armor for Women, article by Cassy Robinson, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Etiquette in Standards Development: Encouraging Discussion without Disdain, Panel presentation

Inclusion in Standards: A Survey of US ANSI-Accredited Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) – July 2020


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