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Thematic Areas - Gender Initiative

Standards matter for women empowerment

The products that we use in our everyday lives – from sophisticated smartphones to simple door handles - are all designed to standards. So is also the critical infrastructure and equipment on which communities depend, such as dams and wind turbines.

Organizations use standards not just to define “what” an organization produces - i.e. the desired characteristics of the products or services it produces – but also to define the “how”- how operations should be managed to make quality reliable, and to ease the burden on the environmental and the community.

Thousands of standards are developed every year to respond to these concerns. But are standards developed in a way that takes into account women’s needs? Gender is a fundamental tenet of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The empowerment of women and girls is one of the goals, and also a pre-requisite for reaching all of the goals. So it is timely to take a look at standards through a gender lens, and ask how standards can hinder or contribute to gender equality.

Initiative for gender-responsive standards

The goals of the UNECE initiative are:

  • To challenge the perception that standards and technical regulations are “gender neutral”
  • To enhance the contribution of standards in reaching SDG Goal 5 on “Empowering Women and Girls”.

Concrete actions under the initiative will include:

  • promoting the participation of women in standard-setting and processes related to the development and implementation of technical regulations;
  • developing and sharing best practice on how to take into account biological and cultural differences in standards development and implementation;
  • developing gender indicators and criteria that can be used in standards development;
  • identifying and undertaking actions to ensure that standards contribute to gender equality.



Background documents:

Articles and reports: