WHSDM Center

(Women's Health and Sex Diversity in Medicine)

Welcome to the Stanford Women's Health and
Sex Diversity in Medicine (WHSDM) Center

WHSDM Updates

Gendered Innovations: Time Specific Announcements

Courtesy of Londa Schiebinger, John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science, Stanford University 

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Centre for Sex and Gender Equity in Health and Medicine, led in partnership by The George Institute for Global Health and the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW Sydney, Deakin University, and the Victorian Department of Health, 26th & 27th of March 2024.

Lost in translation: Integrating the gender dimension in research and teaching in Universities through Gender Equality Plans

I Picardi, T Addabbo, E Cois - AG About Gender-International Journal of Gender …, 2023

Gender Equality Plans have been widely adopted in the last two years by Italian 
Universities with an acceleration that was undoubtedly affected by the European 
Commission requirement for access to Horizon Europe research funding programme …

Challenges with embedding an integrated sex and gender perspective into pain research: Recommendations and opportunities

E Keogh, KE Boerner - Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2023

The focus of this article, within this BBI horizons special issue, is on sex, gender, and 
pain. We summarise what is currently known about sex- and gender-related 
variations in pain, exploring intersectional biological and psychosocial mechanisms …

Reflecting on Progress in and Establishing Benchmarks for Sex and Gender Health Education

E Barr, EL Chin, CB Newman, MK Rojek, R Sleeper, SM Temkin, JA Clayton, K Kantarci…

Academic Medicine, 2024•journals.lww.com. Sex and gender influence every aspect of human health; thus, sex-and gender-related topics should be incorporated in all aspects of health education curricula. Sex and gender health education (SGHE) is the rigorous, intersectional, data-driven integration of sex and gender into all elements of health education. A multisectoral group of thought leaders has collaborated to advance SGHE since 2012. This cross-sector collaboration to advance…

Sexism hurts science and wastes money: Top academics and research leaders argue that sexism in science is throwing away taxpayers’ money. A 2023 study of almost a quarter of a million US academics showed that women are leaving research at much higher rates than men are. Toxic workplaces are the main reason women cite for leaving academia. The authors say it is time to overhaul systems that reward sexism with public funding and that protect perpetrators of discrimination and harassment.

Nature Reviews Materials |

Do Robots Have Sex? A Prolegomenon

R Sparrow, E Horn, F Eyssel - International Journal of Social Robotics, 2023

Research in Human–Robot Interaction (HRI) suggests that people attribute gender 
to (some) robots. In this paper we outline a program of research on the gendering of 
robots and on the ethical issues raised by such gendering. Understanding which …

Navigating Gender Sensitivity in Robot Design: Unveiling the Challenges and Avoiding Pitfalls

A Weiss, SA Zauchner, M Ploessnig, N Sturm… - International Journal of …, 2023

Subtle gender cues play a significant role in determining the contexts or tasks to 
which robots are preferably assigned. This underscores the importance of gender-sensitive 
design in developing social robots, a key focus of the RoboGen project. In this project …

The future (s) of unpaid work: How susceptible do experts from different backgrounds think the domestic sphere is to automation?

V Lehdonvirta, LP Shi, E Hertog, N Nagase, Y Ohta - Plos one, 2023 - journals.plos.org

The future of work has become a prominent topic for research and policy debate. However,
the debate has focused entirely on paid work, even though people in industrialized countries
on average spend comparable amounts of time on unpaid work. The objectives of this study
are therefore (1) to expand the future of work debate to unpaid domestic work and (2) to
critique the main methodology used in previous studies. To these ends, we conducted a
forecasting exercise in which 65 AI experts from the UK and Japan estimated how …

When your period comes in space

In 1978, NASA astronauts Kathy Sullivan and Sally Ride were offered 100 tampons for their one-week space trip. The anecdote owes less to male technicians not understanding female anatomy and more to NASA’s extreme safety margins. “A lot of people predicted retrograde flow of menstrual blood, and it would get out in your abdomen, get peritonitis, and horrible things would happen,” recalls doctor and astronaut Rhea Seddon. Although this proved not to be the case, the first woman to menstruate in space did have problems with leakage owing to the lack of gravity to pull fluids downward.

Literary Hub | 6 min read

"Kelly is a Warm Person, Joseph is a Role Model": Gender Biases in LLM-Generated Reference Letters https://arxiv.org/abs/2310.09219

Gender stereotypes embedded in natural language are stronger in more economically developed and individualistic countries

C Napp - PNAS Nexus, 2023

Gender stereotypes contribute to gender imbalances, and analyzing their variations 
across countries is important for understanding and mitigating gender inequalities. 
However, measuring stereotypes is difficult, particularly in a cross-cultural context …

Sex trouble: Sex/gender slippage, sex confusion, and sex obsession in machine learning using electronic health records

Kendra Albert1,3 and Maggie Delano2,3,∗

False assumptions that sex and gender are binary, static, and concordant are deeply embedded in the medical system. As machine learning researchers use medical data to build tools to solve novel problems, understanding how existing systems represent sex/gender incorrectly is necessary to avoid perpetuating harm. In this perspective, we identify and discuss three factors to consider when working with sex/gender in research: “sex/gender slippage,” the frequent substitution of sex and sex-related terms for gender and vice versa; “sex confusion,” the fact that any given sex variable holds many different potential meanings; and “sex obsession,” the idea that the relevant variable for most inquiries related to sex/gender is sex assigned at birth. We then explore how these phenomena show up in medical machine learning research using electronic health records, with a specific focus on HIV risk prediction. Finally, we offer recommendations about how machine learning researchers can engage more carefully with questions of sex/gender.

Consideration of Sex, Gender, or Age on Outcomes of Digital Technologies for Treatment and Monitoring of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Overview of …

K Matthias, I Honekamp, M Heinrich, KK De Santis - Journal of Medical Internet …, 2023

Background Several systematic reviews have addressed digital technology use for 
treatment and monitoring of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 
Objective This study aimed to assess if systematic reviews considered the effects of …

The importance of sex as a biological variable in cancer research

J Grahovac

Sex is an important biological variable that has an impact on all aspects of human 
health and disease. Yet, it is greatly unappreciated in both basic and translational 
cancer research, and most concerningly in cancer clinical trials. In this review we 

The Gender Relations of Digitalisation

J Wajcman, E Young

The rapid development and spread of digital technologies have been pervasive across almost every aspect of socio-political and economic life, including systems of governance, communications and structures of production and consumption 

For more articles of interest see Gendered Innovations.

WHSDM Webinar Series Event

Sex and Gender Matter in Medicine: Now What? Incorporating Sex and Gender in Biomedical Research

Sabine Oertelt-Prigione, MD, PhD, Msc of Radboud University, Netherlands, was featured speaker in the WHSDM Webinar Series. View her presentation on youtube here.


Professor Londa Schiebinger profiled in Nature

WHSDM Advisory Board member and John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science Londa Schiebinger was profiled in Nature recently as "The researcher fighting to embed analysis of sex and gender into science". Read the article here.


NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health Begins Release of E-Learning Courses on Sex and Gender

new section of the ORWH website features free online courses designed to give users a thorough and up-to-date understanding of sex and gender influences on health and disease and NIH requirements on factoring sex as a biological variable (SABV) into research design. Learners will be able to apply this knowledge  when designing and conducting research or interpreting evidence. The course material showcases examples from basic science through clinical trials and translation into practice to ensure learners understand the importance of considering the influence of sex and gender throughout the research spectrum and beyond.

The courses are open to the public, and registration is free. Learn more here.


WHSDM Seed Grant award recipients publish their research on sex differences in the blood transcriptome

Congratulations to authors and WHSDM seed grant award winners Erika Bongen, PhD, and co-Principal Investigators P.J. Utz and Purvesh Khatri on the recent publication of their research identifying a 144-gene immune sex expression signature (iSEXS) that is differentially expressed in the blood of healthy human males and females. Their article "Sex Differences in the Blood Transcriptome Identify Robust Changes in Immune Cell Proportions with Aging and Influenza Infection",  is based on research supported by a WHSDM Seed Grant award. Congratulations!


Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medical research, Stanford researchers find

When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Londa Schiebinger, professor of history of science and WHSDM Advisory Board member and recent Stanford postdoctoral scholar, Mathias Nielsen. Read the Stanford Report article here.

5 Questions: Marcia Stefanick on better medicine for women

Inside Stanford Medicine asks Dr. Stefanick 5 questions on better medicine for women and why giving consideration to sex and gender differences in research and treatment would improve medical care for everyone.

Stanford Medicine Magazine - Sex, gender and medicine

"Sex, Gender and Medicine" are the focus of this issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, which highlights how sex and gender differences should be part of research, care, and medical school education. The issue includes a feature on the research of WHSDM Advisory Board member Amy Braun, PhD, "Of Mice, Women, and Men- making research more inclusive" with commentary from WHSDM Center Faculty Director, Marcia Stefanick, and Advisory Board member Londa Schiebinger.


Not Just for Men

Dr. Stefanick's article "Not Just for Men" was featured in Scientific American magazine's Special Issue on the "new science" of sex and gender, "It's Not a Women's Issue". Read the article here.

Proposed Editorial Policies for Sex and Gender Analysis

Lancet published a commentary of Proposed Editorial Policies for Sex and Gender Analysis by WHSDM Advisory Board Member Londa Schiebinger. The commentary includes concise definitions of sex and gender as well as guidelines for reporting on sex and gender in medical journals. Read the commentary here.

Lancet features profile of WHSDM Center Director Marcia Stefanick

The August 22 issue of Lancet featured a profile of WHSDM Director Marcia Stefanick and her career promoting the study of sex differences. Read the article here.

The Importance of Sex Inclusion in Basic Research

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Dr. Stefanick, WHSDM Advisory board member Londa Schiebinger, and other experts discuss the importance of sex inclusion in basic research and the implications of the NIH's May 2014 policy change to require a balance of male and female cells and animals in studies. Click here to read the article.



A message from the director

The Stanford WHSDM Center (pronounced "wisdom") is a Stanford School of Medicine center that evolved from the former Women’s Health at Stanford Program. The WHSDM Center acknowledges the wisdom of conducting innovative, multi-disciplinary research on women’s health and sex differences and diversity in biology and medicine, from conception through the lifespan, in every medical discipline, from basic science to clinical and population health science.

The Stanford WHSDM Center also recognizes the value of educating scientists and bioengineers, medical researchers, physicians and other health care providers, and the public on the broad range of women’s health issues, as well as the spectrum of biological (and sociocultural) differences (and similarities) that may affect health outcomes across the sex/gender continuum over the lifecourse.

Marcia Stefanick, PhD
Director, Stanford WHSDM Center

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