Sex & Gender Considerations in Research

The Women’s Health Research Institute strives to create new knowledge that can inform and transform the health of women and their families. This is why we are thrilled that the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) now requires all research applicants to include considerations for sex & gender into their projects where appropriate.

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But what exactly does that mean?

We attended the CIHR Sex & Gender workshop, and this is what we learned!

What is the difference between sex & gender?

  • Sex = biological characteristics
  • Gender = cultural attitudes and behaviours

Why should you include considerations for sex & gender in your research?

  • Sex and gender affect everyone
  • Women are historically under-represented in health research
  • Men’s health is not a proxy for women’s health
  • It results in better science

How can you include sex & gender considerations in your research?

  • Discuss the differences in disease prevalence
  • Discuss relevant sex & gender research gaps
  • If the objective includes both men & women, make that explicit
  • Increase the sample size to allow for reporting of sex & gender differences
  • Discuss gendered considerations in recruitment strategies
  • Add a sex & gender question on your questionnaire
  • Include sex & gender in your analysis strategy
  • Customize your KT plan by sex & gender

There are many reasons why sex & gender considerations may not be applicable to your research question, such as when studying diseases that affect only one sex, addressing a significant gender gap in research, or when the data just isn’t available.  However, a clear justification is necessary and creativity is encouraged.


By Heather Noga, Research Coordinator