Gender Equity in Research
April 4, 2022

Contributors: Veredas Institute – Brazil: Laura Boeira, Gabriela Benatti, Carolina Beidacki, Victoria Menin,

Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE) – South Africa: Siziwe Ngcwabe and Adile Madonsela.

Countries across the globe are striving  to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.  In this blog, we explore the role that research and evidence can play in helping governments attain gender equity.  Several partner institutions in the  PEERSS global network are synthesizing evidence and engaging with key stakeholders to inform gender-specific policies and initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for women, including:

  • The Institute for Health Data Science – China, is working to promote the process of active aging. The team joined forces with multiple sectors and professions to promote economic and social participation of older women when addressing the social trends of aging and the major challenges of the 21st century.
  • Knowledge to Policy (K2P) – Lebanon, produced an evidence brief How to Survive this Tough “Period” focusing on period poverty, and advocating for urgent policy interventions to support women and preserve their dignity during those difficult times. 
  • Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE) – South Africa, is developing an evidence base to inform the implementation of the national strategic plan (NSP) against gender-based violence and femicide. ACE is co-producing a national evidence repository and knowledge exchange tool, that will serve as a central repository of credible, accessible, and inclusive gender data.

However, gender equity cannot be achieved by gender-specific efforts alone. The research and evidence field can actively contribute to the inclusion of gender-related approaches and be the engine of change by ensuring equity considerations are taken into account at all stages of research and policy processes. PEERSS partners from Veredas Institute (Brazil) and ACE (South Africa) provided insights on how they ensure equality is present in their work. 

Enhancing gender equity in evidence

1. Gender balance within the research and knowledge broker teams

Once a male-dominated arena, women’s participation in science and research has increased over the past 10 years, helping to bring  gender-inclusive perspectives to research  decision-making spaces and creating space for more advocacy  dialogue on gender equality issues. The Veredas team stated, “first of all, being badass female scientists ourselves makes us always aware of the need to pay close attention to the gender dimension in every subject we are working with.” Simply, to produce equitable results, researchers must have diversity within the team! 

This concept does not only apply to gender. To create all-inclusive evidence researchers must intentionally create diverse teams and stakeholder groups by giving a dialogue platform to the community’s youth, elderly, and LGBTQIA+.

2. Intentionally using gender-sensitive lens and tools

No matter the research question, PEERSS partners Veredas Institute and ACE make sure they apply a gender equity lens to their research processes. Andile Madonsela from ACE stated, “whether we are working on COVID-19 pandemic’s impact or urban agriculture, gender sensitivity is always the default” To do this, Veredas Institute uses the PROGRESS-Plus Framework, and ACE uses 3ie gender equity tools in all of their evidence synthesis to identify facilitators and barriers that can arise from diverse experiences, gender being one of them.  

3. Advocating for Gender Equity at every step

It  is critical to ensure the gender lens that is introduced in the research stage is transferred through all levels of knowledge translation and sharing. If efforts to communicate evidence fail to incorporate gender-specific concerns, that is the data that are gathered in the research phase, policies will not accurately reflect the needs of women and girls. Research institutions must ensure a gender lens is intentionally used along every step of the policy process process.

4. Producing gender-specific data, no matter what

Often the data that are collected to inform a policy or program don’t include   disaggregated information to assess a situation and ensure appropriate solutions for women and girls , and results in less impactful policies. Other variables such as age and race are often “erased” as well, which makes it difficult to analyze and understand the specific issues that different groups face.. It is important to develop a culture in research that promotes the value of collecting and using gender-disaggregated data to inform policy and practice.   

5. Take time to internally pause and reflect

Despite progress in integrating gender-disaggregated data in the design of policies, women researchers still face many challenges.  In Brazil, until recently, women researchers l were considered scientifically unproductive while on maternity leave and could not include the time in their CVs, thus delaying promotions and disincentivizing funders from providing research opportunities to women.

Veredas highlights the importance of reflecting internally to ensure they are leading by example, as one of the trusted research institutions in Brazil. They recommend that organizations start  by asking; Are our teams composed proportionally of men and women? Are they being paid equally? Are we investing in personal and professional development for women? Are there initiatives to support working mothers? Are we using evidence to inform how to take better care of women in our work environment?

How do you encourage gender-equity?

To advance gender equity in decision-making, the research and evidence field must be at the forefront. How do you ensure you are being gender-sensitive in your work? Let us know by tagging us on twitter: @PEERSS_Global