CIHR's Gender Equity Framework

Gender is one of the equity dimensions being explored through CIHR's Equity Strategy. CIHR's Gender Equity Framework was informed by environmental scans of equity issues and practices nationally and internationally; a literature review; and extensive analyses of CIHR competition data. Based on our findings, three main gender equity issues were identified.

Gender Equity Challenges

Competition Success Rates

Gender inequities in competition success rates exist in certain CIHR and tri-agency programs.

Amount of Funding

Gender differences in the amount of grant funding approved exist in certain CIHR programs; however this difference disappeared when comparing "funds approved" with "funds requested".

Health Research Enterprise

Gender inequities exist in the broader health research enterprise.

The goal of CIHR's Gender Equity Framework is to address these gender equity challenges.

Gender Equity Challenges: Future CIHR actions must:
Competition Success Rates
Gender equities in competition success rates exist in certain CIHR and tri-agency programs
Mitigate unconscious biases
such that applicants are adjudicated in an equitable and gender-neutral fashion.
Amount of Funding
Gender inequities in the amount of grant funding received exist in certain CIHR programs
Identify and implement targeted solutions
such that applicants receive equitable funding from CIHR, regardless of their gender.
Health Research Enterprise
Gender inequities exist in the broader research enterprise
Influence equity practices and policies of stakeholders
such that the hiring, promotion, and nomination processes of institutions reflect the gender diversity in the health research enterprise.

To mitigate unconscious biases that can influence success rates, CIHR aims to:

  • Raise awareness to avoid gender bias in peer review, through:
    • Mandatory completion of an unconscious bias module for all peer reviewers before gaining access to applications
    • Analysis of impact of any developed training modules, allowing for course corrections where necessary
  • Implement targeted solutions for program-specific problems, such as:
    • Examining options for proportional or targeted success rates
    • E.g. Foundation Grant program: Proportionately equalize the number of male and female applicants moving from Stage 1 to 2
  • Ensure CIHR processes do not introduce biases, through:
    • Assessment of peer review recruitment processes, procedures, and literature
    • A qualitative review and assessment of funding opportunity adjudication criteria
    • Implementation of a tool for use during funding opportunity development

To identify and implement targeted solutions to funding amount biases, CIHR aims to:

  • Raise awareness and avoid gender bias at the application stage, through:
    • Training for applicants and institutions regarding funding requests (acceptable levels and durations)
    • Reporting regularly on peer review outcomes, funding-level decisions, and progress on the equity action plan
  • Equip peer reviewers with resources necessary to recognize funding issues (unconscious bias) during peer review, through:
    • Training and awareness/education activities
    • Documenting common and potential budget-related biases
  • Implement targeted solutions for program-specific problems, such as:
    • Examining options for proportional funding
    • Exploring new funding mechanisms to enable flexible career paths such as supplemental funding

To influence the gender equity practices of individuals and organizations in the health research system, CIHR is exploring options to:

  • Raise awareness of the gender bias that exists in the health research ecosystem, through:
    • Publications and educational communication material (e.g. how to write unbiased reference letters, highlighting equity trends and data in Canada and internationally, empirically exploring proposed actions to address equity issues)
  • Ensure CIHR structure reflects the equitable practices being promoted to others, such as:
    • Publicly and regularly releasing application and funding data to increase transparency of CIHR processes and procedures
    • Exploring potential biases that may exist in both the internal operation of CIHR, as well as the committees whose membership CIHR controls/influences
  • Influence the equity practices/policies of institutions by requiring institutions to report on how equity issues are being managed, through:
    • Equity resources for institutions regarding guidelines and best practices for supporting gender diversity in hiring, promoting, and nominating practices
    • Recognition awards for institutions that demonstrate exemplary equity practices
    • Requirement to receive equity certification from a recognized body (e.g. Athena Swan) to be eligible for federal funding
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