Following our workshop in March, we asked attendees for feedback on the challenge of applying for an Athena SWAN award, and what advice they could give to future applications. I’ve collected these into three ‘top tips’ for those considering an application.
1: The action plan must be SMART
One of the workshops focused on making action plans SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time limited) and this is a critical part of the application.
”Ensure that your Success Measures are actual outcomes, not just implementations.”
“It is not about doing the actions, it’s about the impact of those actions.”
“You need to make clear links between items in the action plan and the data analysis that underpins them.”
The creation of a measurable action plan is not only a key component of the application currently in process, but sets the ground work for ongoing measurement of the initiatives put in place as a result. It also sets the scene for future applications to awards at the next level.
2: There must be involvement at all levels of the institution or department making the application, including senior management.
One of the key challenges participants faced when applying for an Athena SWAN award was the time and volume of work necessary to craft a good application.
An attendee said:
“The time required for analysis falls on academics without clear indication or the practice of allowing time away from their usual normal heavy commitments.”
As a result, those with experience advised future applicants to enable input to the application from all members of the department, and especially the senior management team. It is important that the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter are embedded at an institutional level, for both institutional and departmental level awards, in order to derive real, long term benefit form the process.
3: You need to take the time to craft a good application.
Echoing top tip number 2, experienced applicants at the workshop emphasised the need to start the process as early as possible, to get the most out of an application.
An attendee said:
“The application is more effort than you initially anticipate, so leave longer and use more people.”
This is important when collecting the wide range of data needed for an application, from the variety of personnel who should be involved. When making an application to achieve the next level of award (e.g. to move from bronze to silver status) starting early is again key, as obtaining the information needed can often be tricky if there have been any changes in organisational structure since the last application.
It is our hope that some of the key tips presented here will not only aid applicants in applying for an Athena SWAN award, but will also enable them to derive the full benefits from successful implementation of action plans aimed at achieving diversity and inclusion for those working and studying in the biosciences and beyond.