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Writing your application

There is no prescribed style for an application, but it is important to remember that panellists will be judging the application as a standalone document. Therefore, clarity and detail are essential. Narrative in every section of the application should be written with gender equality in mind. An honest appraisal is crucial.

You may find it helpful to review successful submissions published by current award holders. These are made available online by the award holders.

Stay focused

The following questions can be asked of each application section, to check that content is focused:

  • Is the information relevant to the recruitment, retention and progression of the underrepresented gender?
  • What is the take-up by gender of provision or initiatives (for example, training, appraisal)?
  • What do staff and students think of policies and provision? Are there differences between feedback received from men and women?
  • How will each action specifically improve gender balance or the experience of the underrepresented gender?

Be specific and show evidence

There are two aspects of style which are commonly criticised by panels:

  • Statements without evidence

For example: ‘Recruitment to postgraduate programmes has improved since we made open days more inclusive’.

Suggested alternative: ‘In response to our open day practice audit of 2012, we implemented: students providing a talk to attendees; 30% staff and PhD students present being women; marketing materials featuring female students and alumni case-stories. Applications from women rose from 18% (2011) to 23% (2013). In our student survey, 65% of newly recruited postgraduate students identified the open day as influential in their decision to apply to our institute.’

  • Vague language

For example: ‘A substantial number of those who applied for promotion over the past three years received mentoring. A high proportion of applicants for promotion were successful. Mentoring guidance is being revised.’

Suggested alternative: ‘75% of applications for promotion to grade nine were successful (2012 to 2015): two women – both successful; two men – one successful. Of these applicants, two had received mentoring: a successful female and the unsuccessful male applicant. Feedback from both mentees was positive, but the male candidate stated: “I didn’t realise we could explicitly discuss promotion”. Guidance for mentees will be revised and top-up training for mentors improved.’

Use relevant good practice examples

Panels are particularly keen to see examples of innovative and inventive good practice.

There is no definitive list of measures panels expect to see in place in every institute, as actions must be appropriate to context. However, it is important to show that you recognise issues fundamental to career progression, for example, the importance of universal appraisal and equitable promotions processes.

Where good practice is cited, ensure that policies are explained in sufficient detail, so that a panel can understand the extent of the good practice. Submissions should also avoid presenting legal compliance as good practice.

While it is recognised that good practice benefits both men and women, Athena SWAN awards are designed to recognise efforts to address gender inequality. Accordingly, panels expect to see evidence of gender-specific measures and commentary, and evidence of how initiatives have benefited the underrepresented group in particular, even when initiatives are applicable to all staff.

Adhere to the application word limits

Full guidance on word limits can be found here.