Enhancing the promotion process at USC through school-based advisory committees

What we knew

In their promotion data for STEMM academics, the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) found that women were less likely to apply for promotion than men (29% vs 71% of applications respectively). However, when women did apply, they were as successful as their male colleagues.

This suggested that women may feel that they must have a flawless case before applying for promotion. Other barriers to applying – such as insufficient time or support to complete the application, or the perception that they are unlikely to be successful – may also have contributed to the gender difference in application rates.

Piloting advisory committees for staff seeking promotion

In 2019, a school-based promotion advisory committee (with cross-disciplinary membership) was piloted within each STEMM school. The committees would identify staff who should be encouraged to apply for promotion based on their current performance and the USC promotion criteria, and provide support and feedback to those who wished to apply for promotion.

After giving detailed feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of draft applications, the committees would recommend whether the applicant should proceed with submission, or if they should address gaps in their application before applying in future. Committee members may also offer additional support and guidance for candidates, such as mentoring or by pre-reviewing applications that had been revised following initial feedback.

What we’ve achieved so far

The school-based promotion advisory committees provide a structured and transparent approach to support all candidates who are applying for promotion and encourage those who may not have otherwise applied.

The pilot received positive feedback and increased the proportion of promotion applications from STEMM women from 29% to 62%. These positive results led to the establishment of an advisory committee in all STEMM schools. The initiative continues to be evaluated and expanded into additional schools.