The association was founded in 1982 as the Canadian-wide, bilingual, professional association of Women's and Gender Studies practitioners in Canada. It is composed largely of academic faculty across Canada, in addition to graduate and undergraduate students, community activists, and policy researchers -- but is open to everyone who supports its mission and goals. The WGSRF is a member association of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences/la fédération canadienne des sciences humaines.

The goals of the WGSRF are to promote and foster Women's and Gender Studies (under all its myriad names) as an academic field and to build a network of its practitioners across Canada, in both languages. The association encourages a wide definition of Women's and Gender Studies as a field of study and aims to aid those teaching and researching in the field in a variety of locations.

The WGSRF holds an annual conference in conjunction with the CFHSS Congress, in addition to awarding an annual outstanding scholarship prize and both an undergraduate and graduate student essay prize. Additionally, the association organizes the annual national coordinators one-day meeting, held the day before the annual conference begins. The WGSRF keeps in regular contact with its membership via an email list.