Gender Definitions

Shortly .....

The German term "Geschlecht" has two equivalent terms in English: "Sex" (sex in the biological sense) and "Gender" (sex in the social sense)

Sex: sex chromosomes, genitalia, internal sex organs, sex hormones, secondary sexual characteristics -> cannot be changed without medical intervention

Gender: social gender roles, concepts, expectations, norms, formed socially and historically -> can be changed

Clothing, career choice, income, opportunities for career promotion, education, political representation, health, life expectancy, mobility behaviour, etc. -> Gender is relevant, not biology

More on this topic .....

German has just one term – "Geschlecht" – for these concepts, whereas English distinguishes between "sex" and "gender":

Sex is a biological characteristic.

Gender is a social process.

"Sex" thus refers to the physical level and includes sex chromosomes, genitalia, internal sex organs, sex hormones and secondary sexual characteristics.

"Gender", in short, refers to sex at the social level, i.e. social gender or social gender roles, which include the concepts, norms and expectations that are directed towards a gender group and which characterise us all in the way we think and behave.

The aspects that are attributed to a gender group are constantly changing. Gender roles do not result from biology, but emerge differently in different cultures and different societies – where they also change with time. We are all involved in constructing these gender roles. The process in which gender is actively shaped by us all is known as "doing gender".

Whether we assess a behaviour as typically male or typically female depends solely on how we perceive and interpret that behaviour. In central Europe, an image of masculinity dominates whereby men are able to control their emotions and are single-minded, ambitious and assertive. In contrast, women are seen more as emotional, socially orientated, in need of security and intuitive. If a person behaves differently, this may adversely affect the way they are valued:
single-minded, uncompromising male and female politicians are appraised differently depending on whether they are male or female. Parents are appraised differently if they want to carry on working after the birth of a child – depending on whether this is the wish of the mother or the father. Work on a construction site is seen as hard physical work, whereas the lifting work done by nurses is not. Right from the early days of school, the sexes are treated differently, which affects subject choices, school books, communication in the classroom and performance assessment.

Specific discriminations and exclusions can result from all these attributions and gender roles. For example, women have only been allowed to study at a technical university in Austria since 1919, and the universal right to vote only came into force for women in 1918. Men in turn have a lower life expectancy (see Link) and rarely take parental leave.

Shortly .....

There is no "3rd gender". However, there are more than two genders.

  • Intergender: Physically not identifiable as male or female (in terms of chromosomes, anatomy or hormones), wide diversity of variants of sexual characteristics. The terms "diverse", "inter" or "open" are available for the record for this gender category, the gender record may also be deleted.
  • Transgender: Gender identity does not coincide with the gender assigned at birth. The gender record in the register of births can be changed from male to female or from female to male.

More on this topic .....

Society has taught us that traditionally, there are two genders: male and female. We are told that people who are categorised as male at birth are men and people categorised as female at birth are women.

In fact, gender is not an either/or scenario. It is a spectrum. Therefore, there are more than two genders, these include, for example inter* and trans* people.

Intergender: Intergender people have sexual characteristics (pertaining to chromosomes, anatomy and/or hormones) that do not permit assignment as male or female. Many of these people have intersex external genitalia and are thus "diagnosed" at birth as intergender; others only discover they are intergender during the course of their life (e.g. due to the existence of sex chromosome variants). Around 1.7% of the world's population is intergender.

Transgender: Trans* people have a gender identity that differs from the one assigned to them at birth. The expectation that a person is a man if they were categorised as male at birth and a woman if they were categorised as female at birth applies to many people; these people are described as cis-gender.

For people who are transgender or non-binary, the gender they were assigned at birth does not match the gender by which they identify themselves. Trans* people identify with a gender that is different to the one assigned to them at birth.

It is relevant for TU Wien that there are more than two genders, not least since the introduction of new gender categories in civil status. However, it is also important to know in day-to-day dealings with students and colleagues that there are people whose gender is non-binary: in a survey of 245 IT students in the winter semester of 2016/17, six people identified as inter* or trans*.

Not everyone has the opportunity to be able to register their preferred gender identity in their official documentation, or it could be that the process of changing the gender record cannot yet be completed. This can lead to very unpleasant situations if the respective people are called by a name publicly (e.g. in a lecture theatre) that does not correspond with their external appearance – when, for example, a person who is categorised externally as a male is addressed at university with a female name because it has not yet been possible to change it. You can address this sensitively in teaching by only calling your students by their surname (without their first name or Mr/Mrs/Miss).

Further information about inter* is available on the official website of VIMÖ – the Austrian national association of intersex people:, opens an external URL in a new window and on the Intersex Austria platform:, opens an external URL in a new window

Further information about trans* is available on the website of TransX, the Austrian Transgender Association: TransX, opens an external URL in a new window

Further information for universities can also be found in the following two brochures:, opens an external URL in a new window

Shortly .....

Gender mainstreaming:

  • A strategy that aims to achieve equality of men and women; equal opportunities must be ensured in all areas
  • Account is taken of the differing life situations of men and women
  • Equality of men and women is achieved if the different behaviour and different needs of men and women are considered and supported equally
  • Is incorporated in the Career Advancement Plan for Women at TU Wien

For TU Wien this means that all faculties, institutes, service departments, etc. are responsible for equal opportunities and the issue is not outsourced to a central body.

More on this topic .....

As a result of the Amsterdam Treaty of 1999, gender mainstreaming (GM) has become one of the key principles of the EU gender equality policy. GM aims to achieve equality of men and women.

More precisely, gender mainstreaming is the strategy for attaining actual equality of men and women in all aspects of life. Equality of men and women is achieved if the different behaviour and different needs of men and women are considered and supported equally.

The realities of life and opportunities for men and women are different in our society. Various needs arise as a result of this. Account must be taken of this in all decisions, projects and plans regarding policy and management.

Gender mainstreaming does not negate the existence of gender-specific differences, but rather challenges the concept by which we assess men and women differently. Being different does not automatically mean being better or worse – just different. Gender mainstreaming thus aims to enable everyone to enjoy genuine equality based on a premise of equal opportunity and thus not allowing a person's (biological or social) gender to determine their career.

The key difference between gender mainstreaming and the promotion of women is that gender mainstreaming performs social prevention work. Policy makers and managers are primarily responsible for its application (top-down strategy). Gender mainstreaming analyses problems by making them visible – sometimes through statistical surveys – and specifically aims to counter them. The promotion of women, on the other hand, performs a form of social repair work. It rectifies existing inequalities retrospectively, but does not change them.

TU Wien's Career Advancement Plan for Women:

§ 4 Gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting

(1) In all university-related decision-making processes, the perspective of gender relations shall be included, and gender equality shall be considered in all these processes. To ensure that the principles of gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting are consistently implemented in all decision-making processes and in the planning of all measures to be taken, TU Wien shall draw on existing expert knowledge from the Committee on Equal Treatment, hereinafter referred to as AKG, and from the Office for Gender Competence at TU Wien and shall involve them in these processes.


(5) Knowledge of gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting is expected of management staff and members of University boards and committees.

Shortly .....

Equal rights: Formally equal rights for all genders in a legal framework

Equality: Equality that is actually practised; measures that aim to give all genders the same opportunities, this can also include "positive discrimination" (e.g. promotion of women in fields where women are under-represented)

Equal opportunities: All people actually have the same opportunities to access resources, gender barriers to participation are removed

More on this topic .....

Equal rights do not automatically mean that these formal rights are also actually practised and that all genders have the same opportunities. As well as the formal equality resulting from the right, it is also crucial to consider the various basic conditions of the genders and eliminate any barriers to enable all people to enjoy equal participation in economic, political and social life. Thus, the different behaviours, interests and requirements of men and women must be considered, valued and seen as equivalent. No one should be excluded from participating in economic, political and social life on the grounds of role assignments or structural barriers.

Career advancement measures for women fall into the area of gender equality policies by focusing on existing inequalities and countering these with specific measures (e.g. awards/grants for women in male-dominated fields, giving preference to women in fields where they are under-represented, e.g. where their qualifications are the same as a male candidate, giving them preference in male-dominated jobs).

In Kürze .....

  • Makes all genders visible and promotes awareness of equality
  • Is incorporated in the Career Advancement Plan for Women at TU Wien
  • Is possible by naming all genders neutrally (students)
  • The Rector's Office at TU Wien has adopted this policy

More on this topic .....

Gender-neutral wording means the equality of women and men in language. This makes women and men equally visible in language and means they feel spoken to as equals.
And here's how it can be implemented..., opens an external URL in a new window(LINK:, opens an external URL in a new window)

TU Wien's Working Group on equal opportunities has also published a folder with tips on gender-neutral language:, opens an external URL in a new window

Gender-neutral language makes men and women symmetrically present and promotes awareness of equality. Although women bear responsibility as active members of society, language often renders them invisible. The continued use of a purely male form of language ignores this reality and creates inequality. Choosing language consciously can help to counter inequalities arising in this way.

 Likewise, gender-neutral terms can be helpful. The website, opens an external URL in a new window offers a multitude of alternative gender-neutral terms in German.

Career Advancement Plan for Women at TU Wien:

§ 18 Use of gender-responsive language

Teachers and students use gender-responsive language and refrain from using examples, representations or topics that are gender-discriminatory or that encourage stereotypes.

Shortly .....

Distortions in perception regarding gender, unconscious assumptions regarding men/women, such as:

  • Differences where there are none
  • Similarities where there are none
  • Different assessment of the same factors (e.g. behaviour)

Always occurs, is particularly problematic regarding:

  • Staff recruitment
  • Reference letters
  • Evaluation of teaching and research

More on this topic .....

There has been particular evidence of gender bias in language in reference letters, where women and men have been described as having different attributes (e.g. women are communicative, men are highly effective, women's teaching skills tend to be highlighted, whereas for men, it is their research skills), which often results in recruitment decisions that favour men.

Unconscious gender bias can lead to certain personnel decisions, and thus under- or over-representation of a particular gender (e.g. when assertiveness or family planning are assessed differently for men/women).

The forms of gender bias that can arise in recruitment procedures and how their impact can be minimised are illustrated in the video produced by the Institució CERCA:, opens an external URL in a new window

Gender bias can also occur with people evaluating teaching and research (e.g. when students evaluate their tutors) as well as on the part of research funding bodies (not only in the actual report; evaluation criteria often have a gender bias too).

Test: The "Implicit Association Test" (IAT) was originally developed by male and female researchers at the University of Washington, University of Virginia, Harvard University and Yale University as a tool to investigate the unconscious parts of human thinking and feeling. It is a way of measuring implicit or automatic associations, e.g. regarding gender. You can test your own associations at:, opens an external URL in a new window

An overview of current research on gender bias can be found on the GESIS website:, opens an external URL in a new window