Terms and Definitions

The FWF application guidelines are designed to integrate sex and gender analyses into basic research. The focus is on the research contents, not the participation of women in the research team.

This video by the EU Commission explains the difference and shows examples of the often unexpected appearance of the gender dimension in different areas of science. Essentially: all research projects involving people or groups of people as the object of research exhibit sex and gender components. If people or groups of people are not the object of the research, the next question should be whether they would be affected by the results of the research in everyday life. If so, these projects might also have sex and gender components.

Researchers are requested to address this topic in their funding applications, even if they think the project does not contain such components. The first step towards integrating the sex and gender dimension is to familiarize oneself with the relevant concepts, their significance, and the underlying understanding. Please refer to the Checklist for applicants, the terms and definitions below, and further materials and information at the bottom of the page.

Sex and gender

In everyday parlance, the term sex is associated with biological differences, while gender refers to socially constructed characteristics. In medicine and biology, the precise meaning of the term gender has changed frequently throughout history and is always contingent upon societal norms. Nowadays, gender has multidimensional meanings. As a result, biological sex does not form the basis of gender, but is merely one part of it. The term gender avoids a fixation on biology and instead signals that gender is not only a “natural”, but also a social circumstance. Gender marks the interaction of biological factors such as the chromosome set, historical and social factors like the gender-based division of labor, cultural factors like clothing, hairstyle or the way we address people, and legal/political factors like the choice of name, which forces an unambiguous allocation to a gender. Gender also expresses that “men” and “women” and “non-binary” are not uniform groups.


Gender equality

The term gender equality describes a situation in which all members of a society are free to develop their own personal abilities and to make decisions without being restricted by specific roles, and in which the different behavioral patterns, goals, and needs of the different genders are accounted for, recognized, and promoted in the same way.


Equal opportunities of all genders

The phrase equal opportunities of all genders refers to a situation in which there are no gender-specific barriers to stand in the way of equal participation in economic, political, and social life. For the FWF, equal opportunity is about supporting underrepresented groups in science and the equal treatment of the genders.



The FWF understands diversity to mean the many differentiating features that exist between researchers. With an intersectional understanding in mind, the FWF endeavors to take gender into consideration alongside other diversity aspects (such as age, parenthood, disability, background) in their interaction.


Gender-sensitive research

Gender-sensitive research includes the gender aspect during the entire course of research. The way that gender relates and interacts with central analytical questions and categories, as well as potential discrimination structures, are continually observed, reflected upon, and considered in the research process.


Gender-specific research

By contrast, gender-specific research places gender or gender relations and their characteristics in the focus of the research interest.


Gender-blind research, gender bias, and gender-sensitive research

Gender-blind research is research that ignores gender or gender-relevant aspects. In such cases, the gender dimension is disregarded due to the (often inaccurate) assumption that it is irrelevant to the research questions and analyses and/or the research does not have any kind of impact on people. An analysis that, for example, only includes male test subjects or uses data sets that were generated only on the basis of males (e.g. only using male mice), is not suitable for generating findings that are generally applicable.

Instead, this can lead to an (unconscious or unintended) gender bias. This refers to gender-related biases arising from a failure to account appropriately for gender differences. In addition to affecting the research process, these biases may also affect the validity of research findings.

In contrast to this, gender-sensitive research within the context of research design examines how gender-specific (encompassing biological sex and social gender) factors are integrated into scientific knowledge and whether the gender category is systematically taken into consideration in the development of knowledge. This gives rise to higher-quality research results which have systematically accounted for specific differences and needs. At the same time, gender-sensitive research also supports the development and more precise definition of scholarly questions and, thanks to its differentiated approach, serves a larger group of people in the pursuit of their own scholarly agendas.

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