Sex defines the differences related to our biology; the things we are born with, the things that are genetic, the things that are related to hormonal differences.


Gender describes the qualities that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine which they attribute to a particular sex.  The way a society defines a real ‘man’, what is considered ‘masculine’ or ‘manly’ depends on male sex + masculine social role.  Likewise what constitutes a real ‘woman’, or what is considered ‘feminine’ or ‘womanly’ in any culture depends female sex + feminine social role.  In other words while sex does not vary cross-culturally, how a society interprets what is masculine and feminine behaviour, dress, lexicon, varies cross-culturally and within organisations because that is related to the social role of men and women.

It is important to recognise the ‘gender’ does not mean ‘women’, men have a social role as well and it’s impact on men’s health and behaviour in the workplace must be understood. Men are not gender neutral, they are not the opposite of women and they are not the norm; they are approximately 50% of humanity and they die around 5 years younger. Their sex and gender therefore have significant impacts on their lives and it is equally important to understand the impact that they have on men’s health and lives as it does on women’s.

Gender competence

Gender competence reflects the capacity to identify where difference on the basis of gender is significant, and act in ways that produce more equitable outcomes for men and women. As with most social concepts, the meaning of gender competence is contextually specific and is therefore multidimensional. In medical education it can refer to individual knowledge and skills, to teaching, learning and practice environments, to curricula, literature and policy. In medical practice it can refer to the capacity to treat patients relative to their sex and gender difference. In the public and private sectors, gender competence is of particular importance to interpersonal skills between colleagues and clients, equitable work practices and opportunity for advancement. Wherever present, gender competence promotes balance in outcomes for men and women.


Culture refers to the shared set of values, language, practices, social roles and meanings of a particular social group or environment. So, for example, medicine is a culture with very deep historical roots; it has a set of linguistic practices meanings and notation systems very different to that of the rest of society. The social roles are hierarchically organised with the doctor as leaders and nurses and other health service providers as subordinates. Likewise large companies and governments have their own nuanced languages and meanings, social roles and hierarchies that are all very different to each other, yet they also share the language and meanings of the larger society. An individual may therefore have and understanding of a number of subcultures within one society making it possible for them to ‘speak the languages’ of several subcultures and translate that back to the institution to achieve more effective communications and client outcomes.

Cultural competence

Cultural competence reflects the capacity to identify where difference on the basis of culture may be significant, and act in ways that produce more equitable outcomes for all employees and clients from diverse backgrounds.


Diversity refers to the quality of being different. Diversity within an organisation generally refers to the difference of its employees on the basis of social variables such as gender, race or ethnicity, physical ability, age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political beliefs or ideology. Diversity on the basis of these attributes can be of enormous benefit to an institution if dealt with inclusively and supported effectively.

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