Assessing the Accuracy of Biological Sex and Gender Identity Terminology Usage in Ergonomics Research: A Scoping Review


Introduction Ergonomics research sometimes incorporates biological sex and gender identity in order to assess their influence on workplace health and safety recommendations. Currently, researchers are discussing how to best include sex and gender. However, there is a lack of discussion on whether these terms are being used accurately when they are. Therefore, the purpose of this research is threefold: 1) to understand how biological sex and gender identity are currently used in ergonomics research, 2) to evaluate the accuracy of this use, and 3) to provide recommendations for future research. With this work, I aim to answer the following question: “How accurate is ergonomics research in the way it considers biological sex and gender identity?”

Methods I conducted a scoping review of ergonomics research that studies biological sex and gender identity. I evaluated how sex and gender terms were used throughout research and how accurate this use was. I screened database results using filters, evaluating article titles, reading study abstracts, and extracting relevant information from full research articles. I recorded uses of sex and gender terms in each included article in order to identify trends and assess accuracy.

Results The results of my scoping review indicated that ergonomics research does not apply biological sex or gender identity concepts correctly. Specifically, sex and gender were frequently treated synonymously and their terms were used interchangeably. Also, gender was discussed more frequently than sex, although physical characteristics were discussed more than social ones.

Discussion Although gender may not always be necessary to discuss in ergonomics research, sex-based differences are extremely important considerations. When communicating these sex-based differences, it is imperative that this is done accurately, in order to ensure that all readers, especially those affected by this research, are able to understand and apply its findings. The results of this analysis revealed that sex and gender terminology are almost always used incorrectly in ergonomics research. Ergonomics research failing to apply biological sex and gender identity correctly could lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the subsequent recommendations. If sex and gender are conflated, findings could be interpreted as being relevant to one group although they were meant for another. Also, gender is not necessary to discuss in ergonomics research that aims to identify physical or biological traits. However, if social differences are discussed, all possible gender identities should be included so ergonomics can help the greatest number of people.

Recommendations Ergonomics research should aim to be more accurate while discussing biological sex and gender identity. Sex and gender should be used properly, discussed separately, and gender should only be discussed in social contexts acknowledging all gender identities, rather than just men and women.



Ergonomics Research, Biological Sex, Gender Identity, Accuracy