Many topics within science, or more generally, have a gender dimension; you can tell a more complete, honest, richer and fuller story if you take gender into account.
By applying a gender lens to different aspects of a story you can consider obvious voices, but also the voices that are often missing. But how can you apply this gender lens?
It goes beyond making sure that you interview both men and women, and is more about building the gender dimension in as one of the many that you consider. It is a part of the culture and process of story creation, and certainly not a box-ticking exercise.
As a journalist, you will already be considering geographical, cultural, socio-political, economic and other dimensions to a story. This guide will support you in adding gender to that repertoire.
There are many topics where you can tell more complete stories by considering gender.
For example, if you are writing about Ebola it is fundamental to consider that West African women are disproportionately affected by the virus because they are more likely to be nurses or cleaners in the public health sector. 
Not all topics will have such evident gender angles, but starting with the assumption that all subjects have a gender dimension might lead you to some unexpected stories. The following is a list of key considerations that SciDev.Net editors and journalists suggest you employ when developing stories.
|Some important questions to consider|
|Remember that ‘gender sensitive’ reporting means including both men and women.|
|Consider: Are women or men invisible in the story and can their presence be surfaced?|
|Consider: Who is marginalised by the technology/advance/policy/research that you are reporting on?|
|Pull apart statistics — has the data been separated for men and women?|
|Has the underlying research you are reporting on considered how it might impact women and men differently?|
|Consider: Is it risky to the reporter, interviewees or anyone else to report this with a gender angle? How can this risk be minimised?|
|Interview a gender analyst if it is relevant.|
|Consider tapping into available statistics and data on gender.|
|How will you avoid stereotyping male and female roles when including a gender angle?|
Ask the right questions about the research
Don’t assume that science is ‘gender neutral’. Question whether the study design has taken into account the needs of both women and men equally.
For example, in the past women were excluded from toxicology research, creating flaws in our understanding of the adverse health effects of exposure to toxic metals. We now know that these affect women and men in significantly different ways.  The lack of data on women in toxicology models means that particular drugs might affect men and women differently, and that this can pose a barrier to personalised medicine.
|Have gender and/or sex factors been considered as key research variables throughout the whole of the work?|
|Does the research question(s) or hypothesis/es make reference to gender and/or sex, or relevant groups, or phenomena (e.g., differences between males and females, differences among women, understanding a gendered phenomenon such as masculinity)?|
|Does the research use only male or only female subjects (humans, animals or plants) or both?|
|What assumptions about sex/gender are commonly made in this area of research?|
|Did this study collect data for both sexes/gender or just for one, and if so why?|
|Are the commonly used methods (such as questionnaires, surveys) and sources of data (such as biobanks, observational studies) sensitive to gathering sex/gender information?|
|Have the data been segregated by sex/gender and analysed to demonstrate if there are any significant differences?|
|Have the observed effects been different for males and females and if so why?|
|Has the researcher identified if being male or female impacts on the outcomes of the intervention and explained these?|
|Do the results account for differences within the group (men or women) depending on age, ethnicity, and physical characteristics such as obesity or height of the subjects?|
|Who will benefit from this research in terms of sex/gender?|
|If for whatever reason benefits are gender/sex biased, what are the next steps in terms of research to counteract this?|
Choose the right image for your story
The image you choose to go with your story will often be the first thing readers respond to. Photos are not always just about their overt content; there are often different layers of meaning that can be unpicked upon closer inspection.
This is important because the subjects of the photo, what they are doing, how they relate to each other, the photo’s composition, and many other characteristics will have an impact on the message that the reader might take away from the article or story.
Photos also have an important role to play in terms of gender equality and it is worth asking a few questions when choosing an image. Does it challenge or reinforce stereotypes? Does it promote inclusion by portraying men and women in a diverse range of roles? Does it make the reader consider how the story might realistically affect men and women differently? Is the image really appropriate for what the story is about?
There are a whole host of questions like this to consider. The following are three images from SciDev.Net articles with their respective headlines. They have been annotated for key features that made them suitable for the article or story in question.
|Men and woman playing an active role — does not reinforce any stereotypical gender roles.|
|Conveys diversity through colour — the subject matter affects a diverse range of people.|
|Men and women are equally involved in being informed because research has an impact on men and women.|
|Urban sustainability needs to take into account the development needs of those outside of cities too; this image shows an important daily activity that both men and women engage in.|
|Image shows rural area as opposed to urban area — contrasts well with the title, and makes it more memorable or striking.|
|Shows people with their backs to the viewer, which might symbolise the outskirts of cities being ignored.|
|Image shows collaboration between men and women.|
|In this image, both the woman and man have access to the technology; it can convey the need for technology to be inclusive.|
Tailor your approach to the topic
How you choose to approach a story will depend on the subject matter or topic; not just the scientific research. There will be different aspects to consider depending on whether you are talking about the implications of a new policy or writing about biofuels.
SciDev.Net editors and journalists have suggested the following general and gender-specific points to consider for key development topics.
- Technology, mining, transport, urbanisation
The indirect impact of technologies. For example, mining might have environmental and labour dimensions. The affordability differentials for a new technology, or the impact on other resources required by a family. The impact on health of different individuals within families. How the labour movement/migration required by some industries affect individuals within families. Who receives the income from the technology.
- Climate, health, nutrition
Women’s input into health/nutrition stories as parents, and their involvement in child health. Will female or male beneficiaries have different levels of access to what’s being reported on e.g. food, aid, health initiative. Think of a maternal health angle. Lifestyle/physiological and cultural aspects of disease vectors.
- Policymakers, implementing technologies
The impact of change at a community level. What needs to be asked of policymakers? For example, inclusion, barriers, participation, opportunity. Are policies being implemented in gender-blind fashion? If policymakers are deciding on a new technology, have civil society/user groups been consulted about access and usability? Have implementers considered women as participants/beneficiaries of a technology? What are the barriers to technology use? Have implementers considered women as a market, or considered gender balance as an issue?
Useful networks and resources
One of the challenges of including gender as a dimension of your story is knowing where to look for reliable and relevant information regarding the topic, region or the science itself. The following is a collection of resources that you might find useful for effectively applying a gender lens to science and development topics.
An international network to raise awareness among decision-makers on the gender and Science, Innovation, Technology, and Engineering (SITE) dimensions of global development challenges.
This is useful if you are working on a story to do with agriculture and food security; energy; education and workforce; climate change; water and sanitation; transportation; and infrastructure.
The Gender Summits are a series of interconnected action-based conferences held across the globe under the theme Quality Research and Innovation through Equality.
A global network that brings together 12 UNESCO Chairs on gender; developing gender research, training and advocacy in different fields around the world.
The peer-reviewed Gendered Innovations project develops practical methods of sex and gender analysis for scientists and engineers; and provides case studies as concrete illustrations of how sex and gender analysis leads to innovation.
The initiative Human Resources for the Future: Women and Young Scientists in Asian and Pacific Science works towards a more equitable, sustainable global community where all women and men have equal opportunities to contribute to the challenges facing the global community.
Promotes gender equity and equality in education in Africa by fostering positive policies, practices and attitudes towards girls’ education.
This is useful if your story explores educational issues in Africa.
An international network on gender and sustainable energy, founded in 1996, focusing on Africa and Asia.
This is useful if you are working on a story about sustainable energy in Africa and Asia.
Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management is an international membership network of women and men professionals that provides expertise to agriculture and natural resource management organisations.
UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. The gender page focuses on women and girls’ right to land and housing; safety and security of women and girls in cities; women and slums; livelihood and economic empowerment of women and girls; women and girls in local and urban governance; women and girls’ health; promote gender-equal towns and cities.
This is useful if you are working on a story about cities or urbanisation.
IRC is an international think-and-do tank that works with governments, NGOs, entrepreneurs and people around the world to find long-term solutions to the global crisis in water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Gender-sensitive reporting will be a new way of working for many journalists. But if you apply these tips and mine these information sources, you’ll soon be telling richer stories — and ones that more completely reflect the lives of both men and women.
By Juan Casasbuenas
This practical guide was written in collaboration with the following people:
Shirley Malcom, head of the directorate for education and human resources programmes at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also co-chair of the gender advisory board at the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development and the global GenderInSITE (Gender in Science, Innovation, Technology and Engineering) campaign.
Felicity Mellor, course leader for the MSc in Science Communication, and lecturer on media theory and science journalism at Imperial College London.
 Ebola outbreak takes its toll on women (UN Women, 2 September 2014)
 Gender-based differences in the toxicity of pharmaceuticals — The Food and Drug Administration’s perspective (Office of Women’s Health, Food and Drug Administration, 2001)