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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Nanaimo area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo councillors like new sustainable buying policy

Finance and audit committee recommends council approve new procurement policy

Action at the Nanaimo Curling Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo sports organizations qualify for COVID-19 relief funding

Province announces support for curling, rowing, gymastics, softball, rugby, squash, football clubs

FOI records provided to the News Bulletin from the City of Nanaimo in 2018. (News Bulletin file photo)
Samra’s numerous FOI requests to City of Nanaimo aren’t ‘vexatious,’ privacy commissioner decides

Former CAO says records will assist her in a future B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Most Read