What is Sex & Gender?

In the Equality Act 2010 ‘sex’ means a woman or a man or a group of women or men. Sometimes it is hard to understand exactly what is meant by the term ‘sex’ , and how it differs from the closely related term ‘gender’.

Our sex is determined by the sexual organs we are born with - men are born with a penis, women a vagina.

Gender relates to the types of behaviours society expects of men and women. We learn these behaviours as we grow through a range of images and messages given to us by parents, schools, friends and the media. For example, young girls might be given dolls to play with and princess outfits to play in, while boys may be given guns and soldier uniforms. Society has a set of gender expectations of women and men that differ for each sex. Currently, masculine characteristics are more highly valued than feminine characteristics and world-wide, this ascribes more power and wealth to men than to women. This in turn reinforces sets of behaviour, which have significant implications for the pathways into poor health.

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