Demographic Best Practice Recommendation - Gender

ESOMAR has developed a recommendation on how to ask about gender in a way comparable from project to project and in step with changes in society.

Gender: The new ESOMAR Demographic Best Practice Recommendations for multi-country work

Up until the last few decades, if someone were asked about their gender, they would have been expected to answer either “male” or “female”. But we are now living in a world where
the concept of gender is increasingly dynamic. For instance, several countries now offer a gender-neutral option for their passports. Besides ‘F’ for females and ‘M’ for males, citizens can choose ‘X’ for another unspecified gender identity.

ESOMAR’s new recommendation, founded on evidence-based best practice, is designed to improve quality standards and provide research participants with an optional answer that they feel is relevant. Being more considerate of participants leads to more accurate information and less participant drop-out, which will help researchers and clients everywhere to improve research standards. ESOMAR will update its recommendation regularly, noting that this area is seeing dynamic change.

Acceptance of asking about gender in a non-binary way varies significantly between different age groups and from country to country. Currently, the number of research participants who claim to be in the non-binary category is very low. Still, studies show that this seems to be more apparent with Gen Xers in certain regions where higher proportions of younger populations don’t identify as male or female.

ESOMAR has also published a non-exhaustive summary of countries which provide for a third option for sex or gender in official documents and a summary of where a non-binary approach would not be advisable because it is not legal to have a same-sex relationship, noting that researchers are advised to seek local guidance. For more information regarding per country and region, see the Country Info document.

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