What is Sex and Gender

What is Sex and Gender

Sex and gender are two distinct concepts.

Sex refers to individuals’ biological attributes. An individual is defined as male, or female, depending upon their genetics, physiology, and anatomy. Other defining characteristics include chromosomes and hormone levels.

Gender is a fluid concept that can change over time and is influenced by social and cultural norms, as well as one’s environment and history. Gender refers to the constructed roles, behaviours, and identities of men, women, and gender-diverse people. Gender impacts the commonly accepted ways of being, individual’s behavior, and how one may perceive themselves.

It is critical that researchers take into consideration sex and gender when designing their research as these two concepts strongly impact an individual’s life. Often scientists neglect considerations of sex and gender in their research, inadequately incorporate these concepts into research designs or misuse terminology. For example:

  • Clinical trials looking at biological differences will conflate sex terms (i.e. men and women) with gender terms (i.e. males and females)

The Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), has signed onto the Federal Government’s Health Portfolio’s Sex and Gender-Based Analysis Policy. This funding body has implemented a requirement that all grant applicants integrate sex and gender into their study designs.


The Sex and Gender Research Support Service

Women’s Xchange can provide expert advice on the integration of sex and gender into Diabetes Action Canada research proposals, projects, and products. Through our Sex and Gender Research Support Service (SGRSS), members of our team can review and provide feedback on grant proposals prior to submission. Once a project is funded, we can provide ongoing support or consults as needed on specific deliverables. Research teams will need to incorporate in their proposed budget, funds to cover the service costs of the SGRSS. Further information can be found here.


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