What is gender-based analysis, anyway? How the policy tool is changing government

What is gender-based analysis, anyway? How the policy tool is changing government

Gender-based analysis is not new, but is getting more attention since the Liberals brought it into its budget

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police noticed that among rank-and-file members showing an interest in promotions, fewer women than men were putting their hands up.

A gender-based analysis of the RCMP process for selecting officers found a problem: the Mounties took applications for promotions in September. That coincides with the start of the school year, making it harder for those with school-aged children to complete it.

Rather than simply expecting mothers to get better at juggling, the RCMP made a change.

“The application process was adjusted to allow year-round submissions,” RCMP Cpl. Caroline Duval wrote in an email. “In the period following this change, we have seen a 12 per cent increase in the number of women applicants to the process.”

They took a closer look through something called gender-based analysis, which involves examining how a policy or process could affect men and women in different ways, while taking other factors such as age, race, ability, sexual orientation and income into account.

If the analysis, ideally done at the outset, reveals one gender, or another group, would experience disproportionately negative impacts, then plans can be reshaped to avoid that outcome, or at least mitigate those effects.

Gender-based analysis is not new, but it has been receiving more attention since the Liberal government brought it into its budget-making process and has been pushing it across all departments and agencies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told each of his cabinet ministers in their new mandate letters released last week that he expects them to apply Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+), which is the name of the particular process used by Ottawa, to the decisions they make.

The Liberals have been criticized for their heavy focus on gender-based analysis, which has been wrapped up in the branding of Trudeau as a feminist prime minister and seen as a way to appeal to female voters.

The fact that Trudeau named an equal number of men and women to cabinet in 2015 was a political decision, but it was also listed in the 2019 federal budget document as one of the key milestones for gender-based analysis in Canada.

ALSO READ: B.C. women are financially stretched, alarmingly stressed: survey

Still, concrete examples of how gender-based analysis has been put to use in Canada and around the world show it has the proven ability, and lots of untapped potential, to make a real difference in the lives of girls and women — as well as boys and men.

“It’s been used as a wedge issue, I think that’s totally true, but it remains an important tool,” said Katherine Scott, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “And it’s evolving.”

Women and Gender Equality Canada, the department formerly known as Status of Women Canada, has provided online training in gender-based analysis to more than 150,000 federal public servants, MPs, senators and parliamentary staff as of Dec. 8.

That online training module encourages analysts, or anyone dreaming up a policy proposal, to challenge their own assumptions, including implicit biases, as well as those in the previous research and data they rely on to further develop their plans.

It notes, for example, that women have been largely left out of research into heart disease, as well as concussions, which can affect everything from recognizing symptoms to treatment. Men, meanwhile, have been left out of research into osteoporosis, despite the fact that nearly one-third of hip fractures related to the bone disease occur in male patients.

Canada committed to using gender-based analysis years ago, as part of ratifying the 1995 UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, but the results were mixed. The 2015 fall report from the federal auditor general concluded departments and agencies were using gender-based analysis in an incomplete or inconsistent way, if at all.

That is changing, now that every department and agency has to include gender-based analysis in every budget proposal, Treasury Board submission and memorandum to cabinet. The Liberals also passed legislation to enshrine gender-based analysis, which also involves considering diversity beyond sex and gender, in both budget-making and environmental impact assessments for new natural resource projects.

More training and better data have also improved the quality of analysis.

There have been interesting results.

  • The Canadian Coast Guard recently took a look at the sightlines on its search-and-rescue lifeboats and discovered that the height of the dashboard on the bridge made it harder for shorter people see over the edge. It is taking that into account as it designs new vessels.
  • Employment and Social Development Canada says its GBA+ results on poverty among Indigenous Peoples found that those living in remote and northern communities face different barriers when it comes to accessing benefits from the federal government. The analysis also found in-person outreach made a difference. The department has since expanded outreach programs, including by helping more people fill out the forms.
  • The Canada Border Services Agency incorporated gender-based analysis into the design of the primary inspection kiosks at airports. It found that facial-recognition software had the potential to negatively impact some groups, including through increased scrutiny and delays. To avoid this problem, the kiosks redirect anyone whose facial scan does not meet a certain threshold for a match to go through a visual inspection.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

The Binche Fishing Derby at Stuart Lake is fast approaching. (Binche Fishing Derby Facebook photo)
Binche shares excitement for upcoming fishing derby

“It’s more than just fishing,” says Dave Birdi

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Local youth vaccination clinics underway

Pfizer vaccine will be used

Priya Sharma. (Submitted)
Column: Why ultimatums don’t work

By Priya Sharma It is a common misconception that people can choose… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

Most Read