CGSHE launches new Research Equity Toolkit Series to create more gender inclusive research

January 18, 2022   |   Blog, News

The Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine has released the first in a series of Research Equity Toolkits to help researchers be more inclusive of people who are marginalized and minoritized based on their genders and sexes. including intersex, trans, non-binary, Two-Spirit people and others. The goal of the Gender & Sex in Methods & Measurement Research Equity Toolkit is to empower researchers to ensure more accurate, actionable work, according to project lead Dr. A.J. Lowik.

“The toolkit will give researchers the skills, language and confidence to think critically about every step of the research process —whether they are designing a new survey measure, or working with existing administrative data, or updating a longitudinal survey; whether they are a trainee, or a well-established scientist. There will be something for everyone,” said Dr. Lowik, CGSHE Gender Equity Advisor at UBC.

This Research Equity Toolkit Series is funded through and part of a five year CIHR Sex and Gender Science Chair in Creating Gender-Transformative Sexual Health (held by Dr. Kate Shannon, Professor of Social Medicine at UBC and Canada Research Chair in Gender Equity, Sexual Health & Global Policy) aimed at building more equitable gender and sexual health research and practice in Canada.

The first publication in the series, Determining and Communicating Eligibility, is a comprehensive guide to understanding who should participate. “How do researchers know who to include? And what is important for participants to have in common? Is it gender identity, gender expression, a gendered or sexed experience, a gendered social role, sexual identity, orientation or behaviour, or an experience of marginalization of oppression?” Dr. Lowik asked. “Being clear about your eligibility criteria—and then mobilizing those criteria in inclusive ways—is key for better quality research. Not only that, it will help researchers ensure that they are not inadvertently excluding people who really ought to be included.”

According to Dr. Lowik, there are troubling and pervasive tendencies in research. “We tend to exclude intersex, trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit people from our studies. This exclusion is often based on misinformation and misunderstandings about these structurally marginalized and minorities peoples, and due to widespread societal erasure that is connected with our dominant norms and values,” they explained. Additionally, said Dr. Lowik, gender- and sex-related variables are frequently mismeasured and misused, reducing the quality of research and its potential impact. “They are conflated, confused, taken for granted or otherwise used in ways that are not precise, valid or reliable.”

Dr. Sari van Anders, a member of the CGSHE Gender & Sex in Methods & Measurement Advisory and a professor of Psychology, Gender Studies and Neuroscience at Queen’s University pointed out another common error. “Too often, researchers think about gender, sex and sexuality as a sort of ‘add-on’ consideration rather than incorporating these variables into all the stages of research design from question to knowledge translation.”

These research missteps and oversights have serious consequences, explained Dr. Lowik. “Entire communities of people whose lives are not considered suffer because our analyses, findings, and interventions are not attentive to their needs, nor are the policies, practices and laws that may be informed by our findings.”

CGSHE faculty and advisory member Dr. Travis Salway said the toolkit will be a “powerful antidote” to redress the exclusion of “to redress the exclusion of people who are marginalized and minoritized on the basis of their genders or sexes. “It systematically and practically guides the user through a series of considerations that allow a reframing of research materials for clarity, precision, and gender and sex inclusion,” he commented. Dr. Salway, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, added: “I look forward to sharing it with researchers at all stages of career—from trainee to senior scholar—as we can all benefit from deeper reflection on what we mean when we describe gender and sex considerations within health research.” Dr. van Anders agreed: “This is going to help a lot of people do research that is better in empirical and social justice terms around gender, sex and sexuality.”

The CGSHE Gender & Sex in Methods & Measurement Research Equity Toolkit will comprise nine tools in total; the second tool, which focuses on recruitment strategies and questions of sampling, is already in development. Dr. Lowik hopes the toolkit will be widely adopted. “We need to build better, more thoughtful and nuanced considerations of gender- and sex-related variables, as well as inclusive research practices, into our education systems so that future generations of researchers graduate with these skills. We need funders, peer-reviewers and ethics committees who know their gender from their sex, so that we produce better quality, meaningfully inclusive research.”

To download the CGSHE Gender & Sex in Methods & Measurement Research Equity: Tool #1 Determining and Communicating Eligibility click here.