Breaking down the binary divide: constructions of gender in quantitative and qualitative research
This brief presentation will focus on the different ways in which gender is constructed in qualitative and quantitative research. It will argue that although quantitative approaches offer a powerful tool with which to describe and combat gender inequalities there is also a danger that variable based approaches treat the concept of gender as unproblematic. This can result in the reification of gender which may be counterproductive if it leads to restricted and essentialist understandings of what it means to be a man or a woman. Qualitative approaches have greater potential for understanding gender as constructed and performed and therefore mutable and capable of disruption. However, in practice much qualitative research treats gender as an unproblematic categorical variable in much the same way that quantitative research does. Feminist researchers therefore should be attentive to the use of gender as a categorical variable in research whether they are adopting qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods.