“Deep questions for a Saturday morning”: an investigation of the Australian and Canadian general public's definitions of gender

Jennifer Hall, Limin Jao, Cinzia Di Placido, Rebecca Manikis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Objective: Many studies exist about people's views of gender in a wide variety of fields. However, participants are not typically asked what they think gender means; rather, gender is presumed to have a taken-as-shared meaning. Methods: As part of a larger study conducted in Australia and Canada about the general public's views of gender and mathematics, we investigated participants’ definitions of the term gender. We considered overall trends and trends by demographic group (country, gender, age, and education level). Results: Most commonly, gender was defined as a person's feelings or self-identification. Participants also frequently solely used the terms male and female or discussed biological features. However, response patterns varied widely by demographic group. Conclusion: Due to these diverse and sometimes contradictory definitions, we argue that researchers cannot assume that participants have common understanding of the term gender. We conclude by providing suggestions for how gender-focused research can be done in more transparent ways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1866-1881
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Australia
  • Canada
  • definitions of gender
  • general public

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