Define Gender

Sex, as described in the previous module, refers to the biological characteristics that distinguish male from female bodies.  “Gender”, in contrast, consists of the socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviours, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to the two sexes.

Gender both describes and prescribes what it means to be female or male at a given time, in a given society.  For example, women living in Canada during the early 20th century mainly worked in the home — without pay — caring for children and running households, while men engaged in paid employment or made money working outside the home.  Women only took on paid employment if their families or households needed the money and their situation was not considered ideal.

Beliefs and assumptions about women’s and men’s work have been changing gradually.  As compared with a century ago, there are many more women in the labour force.  According to Statistics Canada, in 2009, 72.9% of women with children under the age of 16 living at home were employed, nearly twice the rate of 39.1% recorded in 1976. [1]

Even though more women are working outside the home, their paid work still has less value than men’s paid work.  Since 1999, working women in Canada have earned, on average, only 72 cents for every dollar paid to working men. [2]

These kinds of differences are not about people being female or male, but rather are a function of what we think and believe about people being male or female.

Sources: [1]; [2]

Comments are closed.


Except where otherwise noted, original content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.