Sex & Gender

: Paula Rochon

Co-Investigators: Paula Harvey, Robin Mason

Project Coordinator: Amy Clare

Why are Sex and Gender Important to include in Research Proposals?

Sex and gender are two distinct concepts.

Sex refers to biological attributes in males and females (e.g. chromosomes, hormone levels, gene expression, etc.)

Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours and identities of men, women, and gender-diverse persons.

It is critical that researchers take into consideration when designing their research. Indeed, these concepts are not distinct, as gender is socially ascribed, this is fluid and can change over time.

Diabetes and Its Related Complications: Sex and Gender Considerations

Dr. Paula Rochon (VP Research, Women’s College Institute, Women’s Xchange lead, Diabetes Action Canada Sex and Gender Goal Group lead) presents on the importance of sex and gender in Diabetes Research.  Please click here for presentation

What Are The Current Gaps in Addressing Sex and Gender in Research Proposals and What Is Currently Being Done?

Often scientists neglect important considerations of sex and gender throughout their research proposals. Eichler in 1991 identifies these major drawbacks in research: androcentricism, overgeneralization, gender insensitivity, and double standards. Terminology is often used incorrectly. In clinical trials looking at biological differences, gender terms (i.e. men and women) may be used incorrectly rather than sex (i.e. males and females). If gender is fluid and constantly in flux, findings from research may erroneously account for these issues resulting in false positives, which in turn, may cause inadequate responses from health services.

The lack of attention to sex and gender thereby has resulted in limited literature to support a more comprehensive conceptualization of the research. Population studies or community-based research come in handy. We often have to tailor approaches to different communities.

Here are some video clips from teams of previously funded projects of Women’s Xchange Hospital, attesting to the promotion of women’s health in the field of diabetes.

Tamil Health Association: Healthy Food Program

Mosque-Based Intervention to Promote Physical Activity

The Canadian Institute of Health Research, Canada’s health research investment agency, has signed on to the Federal Government’s Health Portfolio’s Sex and Gender-Based Analysis Policy. In recognition of the importance of considering sex and gender in research, this funding body has implemented a requirement that all grant applicants integrate sex and gender into their study designs.

The Essential Metrics for Assessing Sex & Gender Integration in Health Research Proposals Involving Human Participants

Investigating both sex and gender may not be appropriate for studies. The relevance of sex and gender will depend upon whether the study proposes investigation of biological or sociocultural factors.

For example, clinical trials of drug therapies are more amenable to studying the impact of sex, while qualitative studies of persons’ experiences with health and illness are more amenable to studying the impact of gender. To accommodate these possibilities the term “sex/gender” is used throughout the metrics to serve as shorthand for “and/or”, depending on applicability in the study under review.

Not all elements of the assessment tool will apply to all types of research studies, nor all study designs. For example, some of the assessment categories will not be applicable to qualitative studies (such as ensuring sufficient sample size for powering statistical analyses).

The assessment scales are not only applicable to studies that investigate sex/gender differences, but are equally useful in study proposals focused on only one sex or gender. Understanding the role of these factors in shaping health experiences and outcomes is also important for revealing within-group differences in sex- or gender-specific studies.

To download a copy of this metrics click here

Drawn from Day, S., Mason, R., Lagosky, S., & Rochon, P. (2016). Integrating and evaluating sex and gender in health research. Healthy Research and Policy Systems, 14 (75).

A collection of resources for sex and gender based analysis are publically hosted and accessible on the Women’s Xchange website.

This resource library now has over 50 guidelines, manuals, and websites to assist those interested in sex and gender based analysis and community based research.

What is Diabetes Action Canada Doing to Fill These Gaps?

Sex and Gender Goal Group

Specific Goals of the Sex and Gender Goal Group:

  • Enhance integration of sex and gender considerations throughout all research processes and products of Diabetes Action Canada
  • Build capacity of the Diabetes Action Canada research team members to integrate sex and gender in their research activities

Strengthening Grant Applications: Research Support Service

The Women’s Xchange Research Support Service can help review grant applications.  Please see here for flow chart on process

Building Capacity


  • Keep sex and gender ‘on the agenda’
  • Act as conduits between their goal group and the Sex and Gender DAC Goal Group
  • Webinar scheduled for facilitators to discuss lessons learned from integrating sex and gender throughout the projects of the network
  • Webinar: “Pearls and pitfalls of integrating sex and gender into each goal group” March 20, 2018

Patient Partners

  • Design products and advise on dissemination
  • Inform Sex and Gender Goal Group of patient engagement strategies

Health Researcher’s Toolkit

The seven modules included in this toolkit introduce key concepts, definitions, and short video lectures from research experts on integrating sex and gender into a variety of research methodologies – from secondary data analysis to concept mapping. Case studies, knowledge reviews, and short quizzes all help reinforce the described steps and strategies.

To view these videos click here