Sex, Gender and Health Research Guide: A Tool for CIHR Applicants

Defining Sex and Gender

Sex refers to a set of biological attributes in humans and animals. It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy. Sex is usually categorized as female or male but there is variation in the biological attributes that comprise sex and how those attributes are expressed.

Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is usually conceptualized as a binary (girl/woman and boy/man) yet there is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience, and express it.

Gender and sex are interrelated. There is no simple “recipe” for integrating sex and gender in health research (or for accounting for the complex interrelationships between them and other factors or determinants of health).

Integrating Sex and Gender into Health Research

As indicated in the Grants and Awards Guide, CIHR requires that all research applicants integrate sex and gender into their research designs when appropriate. As part of grant applications, CIHR asks researchers to describe if sex and/or gender are taken into account in the study, and how. If the answer is no for one or both questions, CIHR asks that applications justify why sex and/or gender are not applicable in the proposal.

Below are some helpful guidelines and tools to help researchers and reviewers better account for sex and gender into health research.

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