DND aims for greater equality in procurement through GBA+

Michael Aylward and Lisa Vandehei present at the Project Management Professional Development Seminar in June. ***Michael Aylward et Lisa Vandehei font une présentation lors du séminaire sur le perfectionnement professionnel en gestion de projet, qui a eu lieu en juin.

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By the Materiel Group Internal Communications Team

SSE Initiative 12: Integrate Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) in all defence activities across the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence, from the design and implementation of programs and services that support our personnel, to equipment procurement and operational planning.

In Canada’s Defence Policy – Strong, Secure, and Engaged – the government’s commitment to Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) reflects its broader commitment to diversity, including leveraging the talents and skill-sets of all Canadians, regardless of their gender, race or any other identity factor. As part of that commitment, GBA+ must be integrated into every step of a program or project life cycle, as the findings impact design options, budgeting, risk assessment, and evaluation of project success.

Work has already begun to meet this commitment. To date, the Directorate of Gender, Diversity, and Inclusion (part of the Corporate Secretariat) has trained over 500 people to apply GBA+ to over 100 policies, projects, and initiatives. In addition, in partnership with Materiel Group, they have completed GBA+ assessments on billions of dollars’ worth of procurements.

What is GBA+?

GBA+ is an analytical process used to assess how diverse groups of women, men, and non-binary people may experience policies, programs and initiatives. The process further aims to address the potential for unequal access and impact in the design and delivery of these policies, programs and initiatives.

The “+” signifies the fact that GBA+ considers how other factors of identity shape gender roles and influence how an individual or group accesses or experiences the impact of policies, programs, and initiatives. Identity factors that intersect with sex and gender include race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, geography, culture, income, sexual orientation, education, and more. This is intersectionality.

Aircraft cockpits

One of the most commonly cited examples of gender inequality in military equipment is in the original aircraft cockpit design for the US Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) which contained a technological bias against women’s bodies.

JPATS specifications included a 34-inch minimum sitting height requirement based on sitting height minimums in the aircraft fleet and reflected the 5th – 95th percentile of the average male height in the United States. However, at 34 inches, anywhere from 50 to 65 percent of the American female population was excluded because female sitting heights are generally smaller than male.

Procurement specialists at the Pentagon had a significant challenge: a design which would accommodate the 5th percentile of women through the 95th percentile of men would have to incorporate a very wide variability of human dimensions.

After months of deliberations, the Air Force issued a revised JPATS Draft Request for Proposal that included a 32.8-inch sitting height threshold.

In advancing this project, the US Air Force accommodated women as well as shorter males who may have previously been excluded from pilot training. For potential foreign military sales, this enhances its marketability in countries where pilot populations are of smaller average stature.


Bias is also prevalent in the technology we use every day. There’s a long history of speech recognition technology performing better for men than women. Military technology, too, relies on voice commands and if men experience better performance than women with these technologies, it means that women are facing additional and unfair barriers to effectively do their jobs.


Progress is also being made towards making military equipment more inclusive. A good example is the renewal of the Undergarment Brassiere directive. By integrating GBA+ tools and thinking into the policy review cycle for the directive, it became clear that people were being left out of the entitlement. After consultations with the Defence Women’s Advisory Group and other stakeholders, the directive now includes maternity and nursing bras and chest binders, items that weren’t available before.

Economic impacts

Our government is committed to ensuring that the more than $6 billion per year that Defence spending contributes to the Canadian economy equally benefits diverse groups of Canadians. Public Services and Procurement Canada Minister Qualtrough has said that “in all of our procurements, military and otherwise, we are looking at ways to ensure opportunities for businesses owned or led by Canadians from under-represented groups, such as women, Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities.” Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains has emphasized the Government of Canada’s desire to work with companies that have a diversity and gender plan in place.

Conducting GBA+ can help reduce the gender wage gap. It also builds women’s economic empowerment by recognizing issues within the defence industry and addressing them – such as the lower numbers of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector employment compared to men, as well as fewer women-owned businesses.

Find out more

At a recent Project Management and Professional Development seminar, Lisa Vandehei, Director Diversity, Gender and Inclusion and Michael Aylward, Senior Gender Equality Specialist, gave a presentation about GBA+ and Project Management, outlining the obligations that project managers have to integrate GBA+ into their work throughout the project/program management cycle. Their presentation can be accessed through the Project Management Professional Development Seminars portal on the DLN.

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