Gender-Responsive Standards
January 22, 2024

Growing Women in STEM. A CES 2024 Panel Discussion

True safety is inclusive, requiring diverse perspectives to assess risks. Growing the number of women in STEM fields increases the potential number of women in standards, having a direct and critical impact on safety.

“Women make up a third of the STEM professional fields. That is a statistic that we're trying desperately to grow,” Dr. Jayne Morrow said in her opening remarks at the CES 2024 panel discussion, ‘Growing Women in STEM.’

“And why is it important to us that we grow the number of women in STEM fields?” she continued. Women are critical to many of our economic decisions. They are making daily decisions based on products and product design, they are leading industry organizations, and they are leading government agencies and academic research institutions.”

Dr. Morrow, senior advisor for standards policy at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, opened the discussion for panelists Sonya Bird, UL Standards & Engagement vice president of international standards; Dr. Denice Durrant, ULSE director of engineering and data science; and Veronica Lancaster, vice president of standards programs at the Consumer Technology Association. The panelists discussed the impact women have in standards development, consequences of underrepresentation, and the benefits of increasing diversity and equity in the standards development process.

“Standards – without having women at the table – may not address all of the safety needs that need to be considered,” Bird said. 

“Bulletproof vests, as an example,” she continued. “If you think about a woman's shape, and if you have a bulletproof vest that protects one part of her body, it may leave a gap where a bullet could get in – and that's something that needs to be considered.” 

“The female crash test dummy,” Lancaster added. “When you get into a car crash, women are 73% more likely to be seriously injured or killed because they're using male crash test dummies… so think about that when you get in your cars, when your wives get in their cars, when our daughters get in their cars, they're not as protected as men are because we weren't at the table when those standards are being developed. That's really why we need to be there.”

Additionally, they discussed what ULSE and CTA have been doing to advance inclusivity in standards development, as well as steps companies can take to make STEM industries more appealing to women and girls. During this discussion, Bird and Durrant announced that ULSE has launched a comprehensive review of its library of 1,700+ standards and documents to ensure inclusive language by 2030.  

“That's a huge undertaking,” Durrant said. “And that's just one of the initiatives that we have at UL Standards & Engagement where we're truly focused on ensuring that safety is inclusive, and safety is holistic.”

Watch the full discussion above.

ULSE is committed to creating a culture where every employee feels valued for who they are and what they bring to our mission of working for a safer, more secure, and sustainable world. Read about our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workplace here.