Women in the Quality Infrastructure System

Gender inequality is still present throughout the world

The world is equally composed of women and men. However, gender inequality is still present throughout the world. As published by the United Nations in October 2020, only 47% of working-age women participated in the global labour market, while for men, the percentage was 74%. This gender gap has remained relatively constant since 1995, i.e., the difference between men and women employed worldwide has not changed in the last 25 years.[1]

There is still a need to understand that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right. Its achievement has enormous socio-economic consequences; women’s participation in working life, in key positions for social development, and their empowerment in political and economic decision-making bodies, stimulates prosperity and all-round productivity. We are convinced that women’s inclusion in the workforce contributes to building peaceful, fairer and more egalitarian societies. Hence the imperative need is to promote spaces where more women can develop and progress.

Gender equality and empower all women and girls

The creation of the Women’s Group of the Quality Infrastructure System is in line with Goal 5 of the United Nations: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” to work from our various trenches and countries to promote equity and equal opportunities. [2]

The International Network of Quality Infrastructure (INetQI) agreed on a definition of Quality Infrastructure as “the system comprising the organizations (public and private) together with the policies, relevant legal and regulatory framework, and practices needed to support and enhance the quality, safety and environmental soundness of goods, services and processes”. The definition expands its scope of action to promote the acceptance of quality infrastructure globally and is expected to create additional benefits for stakeholders, including its use as a foundation for sustainable development. [3]

Key objectives of QI are:

  • Raising the competitiveness of enterprises,
  • Facilitate trade capacity building 
  • Boosting economic development.

In pursuing these goals, women have stood out and increasingly excel, occupying leading positions at national, regional and international level. They are also areas in constant growth and evolution. Every day we have new standards, which require more and more innovative measurement methods. Consequently, an increase of reliable and technically competent laboratories, inspection and certification bodies, i.e., duly accredited, to inspect, evaluate, calibrate, validate and, where appropriate, certify that equipment, products, processes, systems and services comply with the requirements and specifications established in the technical regulations and national, regional and international standards.

QI requires personnel and human capacities

Quality Infrastructure has emerged as a fertile field that continually requires new personnel and increased human capacities. 

Giving just one example, in the last year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, new standards and new measurement methods were issued or developed in a short time. The infrastructure necessary for their evaluation was created: high accuracy measurements for vaccine development, reliable tests for clinical diagnostics, evaluation and certification of equipment, medical and sanitary material.

Working from home required us to develop and implement new standards to strengthen information security, manage business continuity and risk management, and ensure occupational safety through measurements and innovative protocols for evaluation, inspection, and certification.

The quality infrastructure system that is concerned with safeguarding the safety of living beings, health, consumer protection, the environment, and promoting competitiveness and quality, among other benefits, must incorporate a gender perspective in its activities. It must consider the ergonomics of equipment and men and woman’s anatomy to be suitable and safe for everyone. It must also take into account the customs and culture of both genders. For this reason, we are convinced of the importance and benefits of women’s participation and their contribution to experiences, points of view and knowledge to strengthen and enrich the system.

The first step is to give visibility to the women who make up the Quality Infrastructure System in the Americas and the world. We are taking advantage of the commemoration of International Women’s Day (#IWD2021). We have initiated an ambitious dissemination programme consisting of videos, testimonials, articles, conferences, events and notes. The programme shows that our contribution to the development of standards is essential to include aspects of a gender perspective. Our participation in metrology, conformity assessment, accreditation, and quality is indisputable. These actions seek to make visible the invaluable contributions we make to strengthen the quality infrastructure.

Female leadership in global QI

To mention just a few success stories where we see a critical female presence we have:

In Standardisation: 

  • The Presidency of the International Standards Organisation, ISO, from January 2022, will be held by a woman, Ulrika Francke (Sweden).
  • The Presidency of the Asia Pacific Standards Council, PASC, is held by a woman, Chantal Guay (SCC-Canada).

In Metrology:

  • The Chair of the Inter-American Metrology System, SIM, is held by a woman, Claire Saundry (NIST-United States of America).

In Conformity Assessment:

  • The Directorate General of the Testing, Inspection and Certification Council (TIC Council) is held by Hanane Taidi (Belgium).

In Accreditation:

  • The Chair and Vice-Chair of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) are held by two women, Etty Feller (ISRAC-Israel) and Maribel Lopez (EMA-Mexico).
  • The Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation, IAAC, are held by two women, Liliane Somma (OUEA-Uruguay) and Andrea Mello (cgre-Brazil).
  • The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation, APAC, are held by two women, Chang Kwei Fern (SAC – Singapore) and Jennifer Evans (NATA – Australia).
  • The Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the European Accreditation Cooperation, EA, are held by two women, Maureen Logghe (Belac-Belgium) and Inger Cecilie Laake (NA, Norway). 

Women enrich the Quality Infrastructure System for the benefit of society

We are sure that the sisterhood between women, i.e., the sisterhood that unites gender, will allow us to share experiences and motivate more women to understand the importance of their involvement and to get involved in these activities. To achieve this objective, build alliances with universities and colleges, inviting students to consider the Quality Infrastructure System as an opportunity to enter the world of work and progress as professionals. By acting as mentors, we guide, train and empower the new generations. 

Convinced of the transformative role we play; we are committed to female talent. We work with love and passion, putting our best effort so that every day more women are positioned to influence the enrichment of the Quality Infrastructure System favourably for the benefit of society. 

We invite you to follow us on our social networks, where we welcome your contributions. On Twitter @mujeres_snic, Youtube and Facebook @Mujeres_SNIC

References

[1] United Nations (2020). The World’s Women 2020: Trends and Statistics, New York

[2] UN Women, SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

[3] INetQI, Quality Infrastructure

Guest author

Maribel López, Executive Director of the Mexican accreditation body (EMA), promotor of the platform Mujeres_SNIC (Women in National Quality Infrastructure Systems)

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