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Athena SWAN FAQs

1. What data can the Equalities & Diversity Team provide?

The E&D team can provide staff and student data for your submissions. We can provide:

•  Staff numbers (including grade, contract type, full/part time)

•  Maternity / Adoption

•  Promotion

•  Recruitment

•  HESA benchmark data

•  Student data (UG, PGT and PGR) is sent via student data services

•  Interview panel representation (this will depend on whether this has been entered into the system by your Discipline)

Data we can't provide:

•  Applications for promotion

•  Paternity/parental leave

•  Flexible working

•  Membership of influential committees

The easiest way to analyse the raw data is by using pivot tables. Some files need formatting before you can create a pivot table. Please see the following link for further information

2. When do we start our action plan?

Keep a record of actions as soon as you start the SAT - this will help you to write your final application.

The action plan you submit to SWAN should start from the submission date and cover the next three years. Show the actions you have already put in place through your application from.

3. How long will it take to prepare a Silver application?

Preparing a successful application will be time consuming, and you should consider allowing at least twelve months. Sharing responsibility for different sections of the application form across SAT team members can help to spread workload. For a silver award you need to be able to show impact, and it will take time to identify key actions, successfully implement them and demonstrate the positive outcomes.

Your timescale may depend on the good practice you already have in place, and whether you can illustrate the impact. Consulting with staff and students using qualitative methods is a good way to assess whether current systems and initiatives are supporting people, and whether there are areas that need improvement. Bear in mind that it is likely you will be unable to have regular meetings during the summer and that September and October are extremely busy.

Giving your SAT team time to prepare a really good silver submission would be better than rushing and being unsuccessful.

4. We have small staff numbers and our data isn't statistically significant, what do we do now?

It is likely that there will still be a trend, and you can show whether there are less women than men at each career stage. Discuss your data and what it might be illustrating. It is not essential to show significance in the SWAN application form.

It is important you consult with staff, run a survey or focus groups to establish how people are experience working in the Department and if there are any issues that need to be resolved. It is crucial you consider the culture of your department in order to make real changes to the barriers faced by women in STEMM, this isn't necessarily possible through looking at your statistical data. SWAN guidelines state that qualitative data is equally as important.

5. Should all our actions be gender specific?

There isn't a right or wrong answer to this. Your decision should dependent on your data, and what would work best in your Department. The most important thing will be to ask staff and students what they want, and tailor your actions to fit their needs.

In your application make the case for what you did, how and why. Keep in mind that Athena SWAN is a charter for women in Science - in your application you will need to show how your actions have supported the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in STEMM, but good practice will benefit all staff.

6. Should we include professional services staff/technical staff in our Athena SWAN actions?

Unless you can show that the actions you have undertaken that specifically focus on administrative or technical staff has had an impact to academic careers or the culture of the department, it would not be a good use of the application form word count to explain these actions. Remember that Athena SWAN is a charter for women in academic science. The panels will be looking for evidence that you have put actions in place to support women's progression through academic science. While it is good to improve working culture for all staff in departments, for your application, focus the majority of your actions on students and academic staff (academic staff includes researchers, teaching staff and clinical staff). However there is nothing stopping you running a follow on project after Athena SWAN. There are some exceptional departments where being a technician can be a route into research. If this is the case then discuss with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and the data will be supplied.

7. Can we make changes to the appraisal forms?

You can make additions to the forms, but don't take anything out. You can also choose to appraise staff more often than the two year minimum.

8. We have more female students than male students - do we still have to show we're doing something to attract women even though the gender imbalance favours women?

You could explain the work you've done in the past and how you attract students rather than putting new initiatives in place. You don't need to do anything to attract students or staff where women comprise more than 50%.

Look further along your career pipeline - is the % of female students represented at post doc level or at professor level? Focus on how you are supporting women to continue in academia rather than getting them there in the first place - where are women dropping out and what are you going to do about it.

9. We are training our students to go into the NHS/a particular profession not to carry on in academia, so how can we support progression through the pipeline when that is not the aim of the course?

Make sure that you make students aware of their options and help them to progress into science more generally. If they are going into the NHS they will have the option to come back into academia later in their career - make sure they are aware of these options and they might see this as a positive and supportive career move.

10. Many of the problems our staff face are to do with UCL policies like promotion or childcare facilities - what can we do about these?

There will still be more you can do, for example UCL offers childcare vouchers and other schemes to support parents, you could make sure that your staff and students are aware of the benefits open to them. You could also avoid having meetings outside of core hours to allow parents to pick up their children, or to improve your working from home policies. If there are any issues that you feel need addressing you could refer these to the 50:50 group by contacting

11. What do we need to show through our case studies?

The case studies are an opportunity to illustrate the good practice in your department and how your actions have impacted on individuals. Show how women in the department have been supported through various key career transition points, for example moving from post doc to a permanent lecturer position, or being supported before, during and after maternity leave.

Athena SWAN ask for two case studies. One should be on your SAT team while the other should be from outside the SAT. Try to ensure your case studies illustrate different career stages and different positive experiences.

12. Can we insist that there is always a woman on the recruitment short list?

Stating that a women has to make it onto the shortlist maybe contentious, and may lead to accusations of tokenism. Make sure that all panel members have done the recruitment training since October 2010 (when the Equality Act came into force), the online E&D training on Moodle and the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Team can also organise bespoke unconscious bias training.

However, departments should be wary if no women have made the long list. You could put something in place to make sure panels review their long list if they have not included any women.

13. We have done a survey, but there aren't any issues that are specific to women. What do we do?

The results are still important. If particular issues were raised by all staff it is important to tackle these issues, in your application highlight the impact your actions have had on female staff. This may also help engage staff in Athena SWAN if it is seen to be encouraging changes that will benefit everyone. Improving the working culture is crucial for SWAN.



Last updated: 01st November 2016