Applying for an Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award involves more than two years of preparation, data collection and analysis. This resource provides a guideline to help our Charter Members get started with their Athena SWAN application.
Working towards an Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award involves participation in a series of activities, workshops, events and milestones for which SAGE provides support. Key events on the timeline include:
- An institutional site visit by a SAGE representative at the commencement of your involvement in September
- Participation in four workshops over two years, in February and August
- Quarterly Regional Network meetings
- The SAGE Symposium, held annually in June
- A pre-submission consultation with SAGE
- Participation of selected institutional representatives on peer review panels for assessment of submissions, held annually in March (commencing 2018)
Guidelines for how to get started
What is the role of the institutional Primary Contact for Athena SWAN?
The institutional Primary Contact for Athena SWAN is responsible for leading the institution’s data gathering, evaluation and action planning activities for the duration of the Pilot. The Primary Contact usually chairs the institution’s Self-Assessment Team.
The Primary Contact must be a senior STEMM professional with decision-making power in the institution, such as an executive-level research leader, a STEMM faculty leader who is a Professor, or a Deputy Vice Chancellor. The nominated contact must be in a position of authority within the institution, able to influence allocation of resources and to action policy review and other activities identified in the Athena SWAN Award application.
What is the role of the institution’s Secondary Contact for Athena SWAN?
The institution’s Secondary Contact for Athena SWAN is responsible for assisting the Primary Contact in administering activities for the SAGE Pilot, including administrative coordination of institutional visits, workshop registration and routine communications. This may be a director of human resources, a senior STEMM leader, a manager of equity and diversity, or a dedicated Athena SWAN officer.
What is the first step after we join the SAGE Pilot?
Once an institution has joined the SAGE Pilot and signed their contract, the first step is for the Primary Contact to organise and host a full-day site visit by a SAGE representative to your institution. This includes:
- An all-campus presentation for staff and students led by the SAGE representative (approx. 90 minutes)
- A meeting with executive staff (approx. 1 hour)
- A workshop with primary and secondary SAGE contacts and other staff who may be interested in joining the institutional self-assessment team (approx. 2 hours)
Who should be on our SAT?
There are many different ways of forming a Self-Assessment Team (SAT), and institutions will tailor the process to suit their own needs. The SAT for a large institution is made up of around 10 to 20 people. The SAT should be formed in a way that ensures representation of diverse gender equity experiences across the institution, including:
- A range of positions:
- undergraduate and/or postgraduate students
- postdoctoral researchers
- early-to-mid career researchers
- technical research staff
- Executive leaders or deans of STEMM faculties
- Senior representatives from Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Business and Law (AHSSBL) may also help, given their expertise in data and analysis*
- Representation across the institution:
- diversity of faculties/departments, especially those with lower representation of women
- Range of caring responsibilities:
- elderly parents
- chronic health, disabilities or special needs
- Varying work patterns:
- part time
- full time
- flexible work arrangements
- experience with career breaks
- Diverse backgrounds, such as:
- Cultural and linguistic diversity among scientists
- Indigenous Australians
- people with disabilities
- LGBTQIA scientists
- diversity in age
- diversity in socio-economic backgrounds
Not all people from underrepresented groups feel comfortable being identified. Ensuring there is an inclusive recruitment process to your SAT will boost equity and diversity of your SAT and set you up for success.
In additon, the SAT should undertake consultation and input from groups or experts representing the interests and needs of diverse groups with respect to race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, ability, class and age, including a special focus on the inclusion of Indigenous Australians. This includes strategies for engaging staff and students from these groups within the organisation, as well as developing ties with internal and external organisations who represent the interests of these groups.
*Note: AHSSBL have recently joined the Athena SWAN Charter in the UK. SAGE will consider rolling the Charter out to non-STEMM fields in future, beyond the SAGE Pilot.
How do we recruit members for our SAT?
There are a number of possible approaches to building a representative and inclusive SAT. Institutions may consider calling for Expressions of Interest or working with heads of school to identify nominees.
Are there guidelines specifying gender composition of our SAT?
SAGE suggests that the SAT include at least 40% of people who identify as men and 40% of people who identify as women. In addition, we ask that consideration be given to inclusion of gender diversity, including representation from gender minorities, or where this is not possible, collaboration and consultation with groups representing the interests of gender minorities, with a special focus on transgender people.
We already have a gender equity team but it is not gender balanced. Why do we need gender balance on this team?
Issues of gender equity do not only affect women but also create a culture where men are faced with fewer choices on how to balance their work lives. Engaging men from all levels of the institution is vital to achieving cultural change, and to ensuring that gender equity is not seen as purely a “women’s problem”. Including people who are gender minorities also ensures that the true diversity of the institution is reflected, and that analysis and solutions to gender equity issues benefit from a range of perspectives and lived experiences. It is also important that the burden of gender equity work does not fall more heavily on one group.
What skills should be represented on our SAT?
In addition to a broad representation of STEMM professionals, skills that it is valuable to have represented on the SAT include:
- diversity and inclusion expertise
- communications and outreach
- quantitative and qualitative data gathering, data management and survey design (e.g. social science/human resources)
- analysis and presentation skills.
How should we organise our SAT?
There are many ways of organising a SAT, depending on institutional needs. One way of organising a SAT is to have a smaller core group (for example, six members) who meet frequently to coordinate Athena SWAN activities. The rest of the SAT might be organised into working groups addressing particular areas of activity. For example:
- different sections of the application
- data collection and analysis skills
- specific gender equity issues.
SATs may consider establishing terms of reference or a project plan to outline the scope of their work, resource requirements, and equitable and manageable distribution of workload.
How often will our SAT meet?
Each institution will make decisions regarding how frequently its SAT will meet. A common approach involves having a core group of SAT members meeting on a fortnightly or monthly basis. Other SAT members or working groups may meet less frequently, such as monthly or bi-monthly.
How much time will SAT members need to dedicate to the Athena SWAN Award application process?
It is not possible to give a general estimate regarding the workload of individual SAT members of specific institutions, as every institution is different. Time requirements will need to be balanced against the size and composition of your organisation, and distribution of workload across the SAT and working bodies. Applying for an Athena SWAN Award involves two years of data collection and analysis, as well as coordination, planning activities, consultation with staff and students, and action planning. As such, it will require a substantial commitment of resourcing and staffing from across the participating institution.
What is the role of the SAT?
The role of the Athena SWAN SAT is to coordinate the process of data gathering, analysis and action planning that forms the basis of the application for an Athena SWAN Institutional Award. The SAT is a conduit for identifying the specific issues of the institution with respect to gender equity in STEMM. The SAT will identify strategies and plan actions to enhance gender equity, reporting to, and working in collaboration with, senior executives.
The work of Athena SWAN does not rest with the SAT alone. The SAT will draw support, knowledge and resources from senior executives, departmental leaders and staff throughout the institution.
What will our SAT do?
The work of the SAT is to:
- Lead activities for the application of an Athena SWAN Award
- Promote Athena SWAN through the institution, and particularly across STEMM areas
- Communicate upwards, ideally through a direct line of report to Vice Chancellor/Director and/or senior executive. If possible, Athena SWAN should be a standing item on the agenda for senior executive meetings.
- Undertake scoping of available data, including existing datasets and relevant policies
- Collect further data as necessary
- Coordinate qualitative research among staff members, such as a confidential survey of STEMM staff
- Interpret the quantitative and qualitative data to identify gaps and opportunities for improving gender equity
- Coordinate the development of an Action Plan
- Present and finalise the Athena SWAN submission.
How do I join my institution’s SAT?
Membership of the SAT is decided through the participating institution. Details for institutional contacts are provided on the Athena SWAN Charter Members page.
How do we know what data to collect?
The Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award applicationrequires both quantitative and qualitative data illustrating gender breakdown across a broad spectrum of gender equity and diversity issues, including:
- number and proportion of women-identified staff across the institution and within STEMM areas (benchmarked against non-STEMM areas)
- number and proportion of women-identified staff of different levels, contract tenure and type
- representation on senior leadership bodies
- uptake of policies such as parental leave and flexible work arrangements.
Full details of the data to be collected, analysed and presented can be found in the Bronze Institutional Award Application Form and Handbook, linked below.
If this is an Institutional Award why are we only collecting data on STEMM?
The Athena SWAN Charter process has been developed and tested with a focus on the particular issues faced by the STEMM fields, and thus data collection and reporting within a large institution of diverse fields is still only focused on departments conducting STEMM activities.
Athena SWAN in the UK was opened up to non-STEMM faculties in May 2015. Australia may consider this beyond the current Pilot.
Many Australian Charter Members have voiced a commitment to roll out Athena SWAN changes to non-STEMM areas. If your institution wishes to do this, that is up to the institution. We suggest you might only include STEMM areas in your analysis within the application, given the word limit.
Which of our faculties/departments count as ‘STEMM’ for the purposes of the Athena SWAN Award application?
SAGE defines STEMM according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Fields of Research Divisions 1-12:
- Division 01 Mathematical Sciences
- Division 02 Physical Sciences
- Division 03 Chemical Sciences
- Division 04 Earth Sciences
- Division 05 Environmental Sciences
- Division 06 Biological Sciences
- Division 07 Agricultural And Veterinary Sciences
- Division 08 Information And Computing Sciences
- Division 09 Engineering
- Division 10 Technology
- Division 11 Medical And Health Sciences
- Division 12 Built Environment And Design
You are required to include all STEMM staff in STEMM faculties. If your STEMM faculties include disciplines not listed in sub-fields above, you may choose to include or exclude those disciplines as the institution sees fit. For example:
- Architecture is considered a STEMM discipline, as per the list above. If architecture in your institution is within a STEMM faculty or forms a faculty or research group of its own (such as a Faculty of Built Environment), it should be included as STEMM. Where it is part of an Arts or Humanities unit, it may be left out of the analysis.
- Psychology is not considered a STEMM discipline, as per the list above. However, if psychology is located within a STEMM faculty, it may be counted as STEMM. Where it is part of an Arts or Humanities faculty, it should be left out of the analysis.
The Award Handbook specifies that our application must include three years of quantitative data. Which three years should this refer to?
To better focus on data collection, analysis and synthesis, we recommend including data up to 12 months prior to submission. For example, an institution scheduled to submit their Bronze Award application in January 2018 should provide analysis of quantitative data for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016.
It’s important that the data presented be consistent throughout the application.
Should we focus on FTE or headcounts?
SAGE recommends that staff data be analysed primarily by headcount. This is to avoid under-representation of those staff who work part-time, who are often women. Specific analysis should be undertaken to examine differential experiences of part-time and full-time staff where relevant.
Should our data analysis include adjuncts, honorary staff and visiting fellows?
Your data analysis should focus upon those staff working for your institution, and therefore should only include those honorary staff and visiting research or academic staff who hold paid employment contracts with the institution.
You might consider, however, any systematic issues pertaining to gender equity identified with respect to honorary staff and visiting fellows as an additional focus in relevant areas (for example, Section 5.4 Organisation and Culture, and Sections 6-8 on Transgender People, Intersectionality and Indigenous Australians).
Research assistants and research officers working in STEMM are classified in our institution as professional staff. Where should they be included in our application?
Staff directly contributing to STEMM outputs (such as research and development, teaching assistants and laboratory technicians) should be counted as STEMM staff. Research assistants and research officers working in STEMM should be included in your analysis of academic and research staff data wherever possible, regardless of how they are classified in your staffing structure. Steps should be identified in your action plan to ensure that such staff are counted in future, where identification of these staff is not possible using current data systems. In either case, data analysis should clearly indicate where these staff are included or excluded.
Can we use Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) data for our Athena Swan application?
Institutions are free to reuse existing data and reporting, including from WGEA, if they help the institution answer questions in their Athena SWAN application. It is likely that some, if not most, of the institutional patterns identified for WGEA will be of great use for some of the quantitative data questions in the Athena SWAN application.
There are also important differences between Athena SWAN and WGEA. WGEA takes a broad view across institutions. Athena SWAN is specifically tailored to addressing gender equity issues in STEMM and requires comparison across STEMM and non-STEMM faculties, as well as within STEMM faculties. Athena SWAN takes an in-depth view, including requiring institutions to examine quantitative patterns thoroughly, and to draw on qualitative data to analyse and explain these.
Our institution has a different staffing structure and uses a different classification system for staff from what is standard across the higher education sector. How should we analyse and present our data in our application?
Applications require institutions to disaggregate data by academic/research and professional/support staff in STEMM, and by level. Detailed analysis is focused on academic/research staff. It is appropriate to include all staff working as STEMM experts in the detailed analysis of academic/research staff data, for example, laboratory technicians and technical staff whose work directly contributes to STEMM research and/or teaching.
What is the purpose of the benchmarking data?
Data from the Department of Education and Training will be used in the Athena SWAN application to benchmark institutional data against national averages for key quantitative questions. This benchmarking data will be provided by SAGE.
Our institution is a research institute with a different staffing structure from the higher education sector. How should we benchmark our data against a national picture?
The publicly funded research institutions and medical research institutes participating in the current Athena SWAN Pilot have agreed to collaborate by sharing data for benchmarking purposes.
Question 5(iv) asks for data from The Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC). What should be captured?
HERDC captures data on research income return and research publications return. Question 5(iv) on HERDC is about the potential gender equity impact of research outputs and grant funding as related to research publications. These data might reveal trends about how grant funding impacts on publications outcomes and vice versa, with different outcomes in specific STEMM fields. Your institution may choose to reflect on the data it already reports to HERDC, by looking at gender differences, or perhaps think about how this reporting process may have gaps or opportunities to improve gender equity outcomes. The Athena SWAN application invites institutions to consider how gender equity and diversity outcomes, policies and practices are interconnected. Might publications outcomes impact women and gender minorities’ career progression differently than men’s outcomes and if so what actions can be implemented to redress inequities that might exist?
We are not a university – what should we include for Question 5(iv) on HERDC?
In the case of medical research institutions and publicly funded research agencies that do not report to HERDC, please analyse internal and external publication outcomes and how these might be potentially impacted by gender equity issues such as funding grants and related processes. This might include an analysis of research, government or client reports; academic research papers; and other publications that are usually counted towards career promotions within your organisation.
Can we see examples of successful Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award applications from the UK?
Previously successful applications can be accessed through the Equality Challenge Unit website.
The new Athena SWAN Awards application introduced in May 2015 and adapted for the Australian context contains additional sections. There are no current applications available using the new framework, as this is being introduced in the UK simultaneously with the introduction of the SAGE Pilot in Australia.
SAGE is running a webinar series to provide examples of how UK institutions successfully worked towards their Athena SWAN Award. See the SAGE YouTube Channel for previous webinars.
How should we present our action plan in our application for an Award?
Athena SWAN Award applications must present actions to address gender equity issues in relevant places throughout the analysis. These actions are then methodically laid out in the Action Plan, including deadlines, roles and responsibilities for completing each task. Actions must follow the SMART methodology: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. The Action Plan must clearly identify ways to make progress on gender equity within the institution, such as by increasing hiring, promotion and retention of women-identified STEMM researchers and improving gender diversity in senior positions.
What about actions that we identify and undertake while preparing our submission?
Actions that are achieved through the course of preparing the submission for the Athena SWAN Award can be listed in the action plan as “completed” to demonstrate areas of focus and progress achieved to date.
How do we make our action plan effective?
In order to successfully execute and present an effective Action Plan for a Bronze Institutional Award, SAT teams will require:
- Reporting lines to the head of the institution and senior leadership, who will commit to undertaking the required changes outlined in the Action Plan
- Clearly presented strategies for communicating activities undertaken for Athena SWAN to the rest of the institution to ensure successful implementation
- Demonstration of how Athena SWAN has been adopted as part of the institutional culture and in its strategic planning.
How can the institutional leadership support the work of Athena SWAN?
Institutional leadership from the head of the institution and senior management is vital to the effectiveness of Athena SWAN and the chances of achieving an Institutional Award.
The Vice Chancellor/Director and Executive can support the work of Athena SWAN through:
- Recognising the work of the Self-Assessment Team (SAT)
- Releasing staff and committing the necessary resources to undertake the Athena SWAN assessment and application process, and implement the Action Plan. This can often involve dedicating time or resources for staff who will oversee the Athena SWAN application process. The institutional leader might also acknowledge the work of all staff involved in leading the work through the SAT through an official work model.
- Alleviating or adjusting SAT members’ teaching, research and administration responsibilities.
- Ensuring that existing grant funding and other resources are available to SAT members so they may continue on with their other work productively during and after the Pilot.
- Ensuring that all staff, at all levels, are adequately informed about Athena SWAN, and have an opportunity to contribute. Some institutions may make SAT membership a competitive application process to ensure gender and diversity balance, while others may invite members with the required skills to consider nominating for the SAT. Whichever way the SAT is recruited and organised, membership should be voluntary, fair, equitable and professionally recognised.
- Providing formal recognition of staff who volunteer to serve on the SAT and associated committees. Some institutions may make Athena SWAN SAT participation a recognised KPI for promotion, or offer specific awards or other merit recognition.
- Ensuring institutional support for achieving organisational change for greater gender equity
- Establishing clear and regular lines of communication with the SAT to assess and support the progress of the work and action any findings, including providing appropriate resourcing for actions identified through the action planning.
- Promoting the work of Athena SWAN throughout the institution. For example, some UK institutions invest in a robust public communications campaign or use other staff information resources to actively promote Athena SWAN and update staff on the SAT’s progress.
Read more on the importance of institutional leadership.
How are Athena SWAN applications assessed?
Applications for an Athena SWAN Award will be assessed by trained panellists of peer reviewers in the months following submission, with institutions notified of outcomes and feedback one month in advance of the Awards Ceremony. A detailed SAGE Procedures Manual governs the peer review process, including appeals processes.
What will happen if our institutional application for an Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award is successful?
Accreditation as an Athena SWAN Bronze Institution will be valid for four years (subject to payment of annual administration fees). During this time, an institution is expected to work towards improving gender equity, particularly through implementing their Action Plan.
Bronze Award holding institutions who remain members of the Athena SWAN Charter will be eligible for ongoing support from SAGE to implement their Action Plan and work towards further Awards.
After four years, an institution may choose to apply to renew their Bronze Institutional Award, or apply for a Silver Institutional Award
Once accreditation as a Bronze Institutional Award holder is conferred, the institution may wish to put forward STEMM departments to apply for a Departmental Award.
Information about renewing a Bronze Institutional Award, or applying for a Silver Institutional Award or Departmental Awards will be released at the completion of the SAGE Pilot.
What will happen if our institutional application for an Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award is unsuccessful?
The process of developing an institution’s first submission for a Bronze Institutional Award is simply the first step in the journey of being an Athena SWAN Charter member. In the UK, only around half of institutions succeed in their application for a Bronze Award. Yet all institutions in the UK which were unsuccessful on their first attempt to date have come back to apply again in a later round, drawing on detailed feedback from the peer review panel.
Regardless of whether your institution is successful or unsuccessful on your first attempt, it is useful to view the process of applying for an Athena SWAN Institutional Award as an opportunity to begin improving gender equity in your organisation. Gender equity change does not end with a successful or unsuccessful Athena SWAN Award. It is a long-term process of policy evaluation and consultation with staff and students.
SAGE is here to support institutions which are not successful the first time, so that they can continue their work towards addressing gender equity issues. The SAGE team will work closely with institutions so that they understand the feedback provided by the peer review panel and prepare for a future submission. This will begin with a support workshop for unsuccessful applicants to be held soon after the Award announcements.