Identifying a problem and framing a research question are typically the first steps in research design. Specific assumptions and worldviews underpin all research questions, including assumptions about whether and how sex, gender, and diversity apply to the research topic. Research questions informed by indigenization, equity, diversity and inclusion re-examine assumptions and ensure that research findings are relevant to society, rigorously tested, and ethically sound.
For example, many technical and environmental issues would benefit from research that integrates sex, gender, and diversity as variables. In the case of research on strategies to minimize waste production, optimize waste management, and reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions, it has been recognized that sex, gender, and diversity are related to differences in waste production and management behaviours.
Many research topics appear to not directly engage with sex, gender, or diversity as variables. However, new technologies and innovations researched in apparently “neutral” research settings will ultimately be deployed in the real world, where human populations and societies are made up of individuals that are differentiated along the lines of sex, gender, and other aspects of diversity. For example, it’s been shown that new technologies, such as agricultural innovations, can lead to unequal benefits, or even harms, when gender norms are not considered. Conversely, conscious consideration of gender and diversity norms can lead to transformative approaches that create greater social equality.
In one case, a shift in the research priorities of a mechanical engineering lab led to an increased number of women working in the lab. This was due to a change in focus toward fluid mechanics with human health applications of benefit to women.
Integrating sex, gender, and diversity considerations from the beginning of the research process sets you on the right path to continue integration throughout the research design, from methods to analysis and knowledge dissemination.
This one-pager features questions to help you reflect on when, where, and how sex, gender, and diversity interact with your research design.