This page discusses basic concepts of gender and introduces key resources for deeper guidance on undertaking a gender analysis.

What is Gender Analysis?

What is Gender?

Gender is not only about the biological differences between men and women, boys and girls. Gender defines what it means to be a man or woman, boy or girl in a given society – it carries specific roles, status and expectations within households, communities and cultures. The traits and characteristics associated with gender differ from culture to culture, may vary within cultures, and evolve over time. These differences mean that: individuals face different situations as to what economic, social and political opportunities are open and accessible to them, and what status they hold within economic, social and political institutions.

Examples include:

  • Cultural norms concerning women’s mobility or women’s reproductive (care-giving, household maintenance) roles may limit their ability to take part in the workforce or
    participate equally in decision-making processes at the community or broader levels;
  • Men often face community pressures/expectations that prevent them from breaking harmful gender norms, and sharing roles or responsibilities more equitably within
    the household; and
  • Where marriage norms mean women and girls lose membership of their natal kin to join that of their husbands, parents may prioritize investment in sons who are expected
    to remain with and support the family.

Men, women, boys and girls are affected in different ways by policies, interventions and changing environments, based on their unique experiences, priorities, social norms and their relationships with others. Examples include:

  • Deteriorating natural resources may disproportionately affect women and girls who must then travel farther to gather firewood or water, not only adding to their
    workloads but also increasing their risk of assault;
  • Economic development programs that only target women and girls to the exclusion of men can aggravate gender tensions within households, especially where men are
    expected to provide for the family and have been unable to fulfill these duties in difficult economic environments; and
  • Enrollment campaigns designed to increase girls’ participation in school can set girls up for failure if they don’t address discriminatory practices in schools,
    communities and domestic workload issues at home.


The What and Why of Gender Analysis

Gender analysis is the systematic attempt to identify key issues contributing to gender inequalities, many of which also contribute to poor development outcomes. This process explores how gendered power relations give rise to discrimination, subordination and exclusion in society, particularly when overlaid across other areas of marginalization due to class, ethnicity, caste, age, disability status, sexuality, etc. CIDA describes gender analysis as:

“The variety of methods used to understand the relationships between men and women, their access to resources, their activities, and the constraints they face relative to each other. Gender analysis provides information that recognizes that gender, and its relationship with race, ethnicity, culture, class, age, disability, and/or other status, is important in understanding the different patterns of involvement, behaviour and activities that women and men have in economic, social and legal structures.”

The gender analysis process seeks to collect, identify, examine and analyze information on the different roles of women and men. Gender analysis primarily seeks to understand these three questions:

  1. What are gendered-related rights denials in a given context? How do unequal gender relations, gendered discrimination, subordination and exclusion influence rights denials? How do these rights abuses intersect with other areas of discrimination – based on ethnicity, culture, class, age, disability, etc.?
  2. How will gender relations affect the achievement of sustainable results? For example, if the project’s sustainable result is increased productivity among female smallholder farmers, then gendered norms in household divisions of labor and workloads may greatly influence production outcomes.
  3. How will proposed results affect the relative status of men and women? Will it exacerbate or reduce inequalities?

Gender analysis examines gender roles and relations from inter-personal, household, community, provincial and national levels. It looks at both the public and private spheres of people’s lived experiences. It seeks to understand the differing priorities, needs, activities and responsibilities of men and women, boys and girls across different life stages, and in the various roles they play (as sons and daughters, lovers, mothers and fathers, citizens, neighbors, laborers, etc.). An analysis of gender issues must also recognize other diversity factors that affect all members of society, such as age, ethnicity, class, caste and other socioeconomic conditions.

Analyzing gender is essential for CARE across the program cycle to:

  • Design, innovate and adapt programming that aims to transform gender dynamics and power in ways that promote social justice, inclusiveness and equality;
  • Remain accountable to those in whose lives we hope to see positive change, and minimize unintended harm;
  • Assess how program initiatives and broader trends have contributed to change for groups of people across genders, including monitoring expected and unexpected results; and
  • Build an evidence base that facilitates documentation and contributes to broader advocacy and social movements in favor of equal human rights for all genders.

Further Resources on Gender Analysis

Good Practices Framework on Gender Analysis

To give an overview of what areas to consider when conducting analysis on gender, the Good Practices Framework on Gender Analysis offers a framework for understanding gender in a given context. It outlines key areas of inquiry to consider when trying to understand what are the conditions and characteristics of gender relations.

For each area of inquiry, the Good Practices Framework offers: potential research questions, and b) suggested tools to explore these questions.

The framework DOES NOT offer a frame to apply directly for research. It asks research teams to formulate their key questions for analysis, and adapt the framework as well as its questions to fit the research context and purpose. Based on these questions, research teams can explore what tools could be adapted to fit their needs:

A pyramid broken into three parts: A (the bottom level): Preliminary Foundations - Broader Context, B (middle level): Core Areas of Inquiry, and C (top level): Strategic Issues, Practical Needs
Good Practices Framework Draft

Deeper Reading

  • Power and Gender Framework. This page highlights dimensions and characteristics of power as they relate to women's empowerment. It offers helpful background on core concepts of power and gender that can inform gender analysis.
  • Measuring Gender-transformative Change: A Review of Literature and Promising Practices. This paper from CARE, World Fish, and the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems explores ways to measure gender transformative change. Gender-transformative approaches aim to move beyond individual  self-improvement among women and toward transforming the power dynamics and structures that serve to reinforce gendered inequalities.  As defined by the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS), a gender-transformative  approach to development goes beyond the “symptoms” of gender inequality to address “the social norms, attitudes,  behaviors, and social systems that underlie them” (AAS 2012, 3). This approach entails engaging groups in critically examining, challenging and questioning gender norms and power relations (Rottach et al. 2009) that underlie visible gender gaps.
  • Strategic Impact Inquiry (SII) on Women's Empowerment. Framed in the examination of power and gender, this three-year inquiry involved over 30 Country Offices to explore what is women's empowerment, and what has been CARE's contribution toward it. Read more about the SII on Women's Empowerment Research Framework to see how CARE attempted to understand how CARE's programs are impacting the underlying causes of poverty and rights denial.
  • Strategic Impact Inquiry (SII) on Gender in Emergencies.CARE International's Strategic Impact Inquiry on Gender in Emergencies (SII on GiE) is a pathbreaking effort to understand the impacts our humanitarian response work is having on the short- and long-term dynamics of gender inequality in the communities we serve.