Five tips to incorporate a gender perspective in research

9 December 2019
SERIES Ideas, reflections and advice from future think tank leaders 17 items

As part of the OTT-TTI Fellowship programme, some colleagues and I started talking about how our think tanks could incorporate a gender perspective into our research agendas, as well as our traditional projects and research cycles.

I started to investigate and was surprised to find a vast set of literature explicitly exploring the topic! In this blog I summarise, from said literature, some of the top arguments for applying a gender perspective and some tips for getting started.

Three reasons to apply a gender perspective

  1. As researchers, we strive to understand problems and answer complex questions. It seems logical, even responsible, to try to understand all the possible dimensions of a research question or issue, and that includes gender (beyond biological sex, this includes the social and cultural dimensions of gender).
  2. Gender differences – and the social/power relations associated with these differences – can actually be crucial to our analysis. I encourage you to read this example by FUSADES  + that illustrates how some research phenomena can affect men, women and others in different ways. Without a gender perspective, you may lose sight of an important part of the problem and reinforce inequalities or traditional gender roles.
  3. A gender perspective helps you recognise the possible biases, preferences, interests and values of researchers. With awareness, it is possible to minimise the influence of these factors on the research, thereby making the output more credible and robust.

Five tips to start applying a gender perspective:

  1. Train your research team on gender integration and awareness. It’s important to decode what we mean by gender for research. For example, the whole team needs to know key terminology, such as the difference between gender and sex.
  2. Integrate values of diversity and equality into proposal design. Try to develop research questions that take into account gender norms and disparities. If possible, promote research topics that would break sexist dynamics and design, from the beginning, methodologies and strategies to address social norms and gender relations. In addition, becoming familiar with the research subject context is very helpful when making sure you are including all voices.
  3. When collecting empirical information, try to find disaggregated data and evaluate the potential to measure gender issues so you can plan to design other instruments. Also, evaluate the use of androcentric variables in your data. At this stage, value the literature that comes from both men and women, and also from different contexts.
  4. Consider using gender-integration continuum categories to measure how gender focused your research is, for example those developed by Oxfam.+ Always remember to ask: who do the research results serve? Do they serve men, women and different gender identities in the same way?
  5. When writing your research make sure you introduce gender-sensitive language and include some context through a lens of gender perspective. When presenting the findings, disaggregate the data and go beyond just focusing on women/men to address the subject of gender. Also plan a communications strategy to avoid transmitting stereotypes.

As a first step to actioning these tips, set up a meeting with your research team to discuss them. By discussing these issues within our think tanks we are generating awareness within the sector. This will hopefully have a multiplier effect, generating new methodologies and ideas on how to make incorporating a gender perspective into our work the norm!

If you’re looking for more on this topic, I recommend these documents by Oxfam and the European Commission,+ offering frameworks and tools for applying a gender perspective.