The importance of diversity for standardization’s future: interview with Joanna Gajdek, ASI

The twin green and digital transitions open new opportunities for the European economy and for European citizens. But does Europe have what it takes? How can we make sure that it has the skills and the workforce to remain competitive in the global economy? And what is the role of standardization?

On the occasion of the European Year of Skills, we are conducting a special campaign: through a series of interview with standardization professionals, experts and business leaders coming from a variety of background, throughout the year we will explore the interaction between innovation, skills and standardization in some of the most relevant sectors for Europe’s long-term competitiveness.


For the second episode of the series, we interviewed Joanna Gajdek, at Austrian Standards (ASI), on an initiative to increase the participation of young girls in standardization and the importance of diversity in ensuring the resilience of our system.

1. On 27 April 2023, Vienna celebrated its Daughters’ Day. On this occasion, ASI launched a very interesting initiative. Could you explain what it consisted of?

“Daughters’ Day” (Töchter Tag) is an initiative which Austrian Standards has been involved in for more than 10 years. ASI joins about 250 organisations, institutions and private companies that participate in it every year.

The general idea behind Daughters Day is to introduce young girls (aged between 11 and 15) to jobs which are not typically considered as women’s jobs.

Currently, slightly more than 50% of ASI’s employees are women. However, in technical areas, like construction or machinery, both ASI’s staff managing Technical Committees and the participating experts are still predominantly male.


That is why ASI’s general intention is twofold: on the one hand, to promote information about standardization and its benefits. On the other, to encourage young women to consider jobs and respectively educational paths which still have a predominantly “male image”.

2. What makes standardization attractive for the young girls participating to this event?

Daughters’ Day is an opportunity for students to visit every year another place and to learn exactly about lesser-known employers and professional areas.

Before visiting ASI, young girls can probably not really imagine what sort of professional activity is related to standardization, or what standardization means at all. This makes ASI interesting. In a special Daughters' Day committee, the young experts were able to develop their own standard. In the process, they experienced in fast motion all the steps from the initial idea to consensus-building in the committee to completion: as a result, they developed a standard for sustainable flexible bookshelves.


Then, usually, at the end of the day the girls have a meeting with ASI’s Managing Director. By the way, the former Director and the current one are women. This time, our CEO Valerie Höllinger and our COO Birgit Unger had a lot of fun getting to know the young ladies and talking about their career plans.

The girls usually ask some general questions about the responsibilities of management, challenges, or the motivations for a specific job or position.

3. What are the skills needed for the next generation of standard-makers?

There are a few requirements which I think will be key: the ability to handle horizontal subjects; good knowledge about the legal framework for standardization and content definition (depending to the technical area there are more and more legal parameters playing a role); and finally, of course, good English proficiency.

4. And what skills can young people learn from participating in standardization?

Standardization can teach young people the ability to manage horizontal subjects, “to get the big picture”, to work in multinational and multicultural groups; to increase their flexibility and negotiation skills; and to develop efficient communication skills, both oral and written.

5. Why is it important for standardization to attract young professionals, and in particular young girls?

We need the next generation of experts and professionals. We need also to develop new and innovative subjects and areas within standardization. We must be ready for horizontal subjects, multi-sectoral issues. Young people, who grew up with digital solutions throughout their life, have a strong interest and excellent skills for jobs in areas like AI, IoT, and digitalisation.


The work of standardization would simply be impossible without diversity. That is why we want to get more women interested by this meaningful work.

6. What is ASI doing to ensure that Austria has the standardization skills needed for the future?

The basic skill needed by the standardization experts in the Technical Committees on the national, European, and international level is a good knowledge of the rules governing the development of standards. ASI regularly offers a basic training, so called “Standardization Insight”, providing basic info.

ASI invests resources in training and coaching of the own staff and in adapting the organisational framework of the standards development department to be able to respond to the future challenges of standardization.  

7. Based on ASI experience, what can other Standardization organizations do to improve the participation of young and, more generally, new people in standardization? 

Reach out to young and new people. Every year we use the opportunity to invite young girls to visit our house and to talk to them about standardization. We also developed a Gender Action Plan, and we specifically address women to attract them to participate in Technical Committees as experts. We promote standardization among start-ups and bring some topics into the university and high school courses in Austria.


This article is part of our special series dedicated to the European Year of Skills: through a series of articles and interviews with standardization professionals, experts and business leaders coming from a variety of background, throughout the year we will explore the interaction between innovation, skills and standardization in some of the most relevant sectors for Europe’s long-term competitiveness. You can read the other articles related to the campaign here.


Giovanni COLLOT


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