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Athena SWAN

Things to consider for your Athena SWAN Action Plan….

23 October 2014

For I while I thought, probably arrogantly, that getting an Athena SWAN Bronze Award shouldn’t be that difficult. I think it depends on just two things:

  1. An honest appraisal of the state of your Department – identifying the key challenges.
  2. An Action Plan to will seek to address these challenges in a positive way.

However, I have come to realise that doing these two things can be really difficult. Looking honestly at our Departments and ourselves can be uncomfortable. Perhaps our Head of Department or others don’t like what they see and are unwilling to face up to it.

Even after an honest appraisal of the problems, knowing what can be done to address challenges can also be difficult.

To help with what can be done, I have prepared a list of ideas:


  • GET HELP – build a team within your School and externally.
  • Recruit external female advisors/role models (someone from another School in your University. Consider someone from a similar Department in another University or your professional organisations. These advisors could be used for high level advice, for interview panels, or as ‘critical friends’.
  • Include undergraduate and post-graduate representatives at all levels of your organisation.
  • Monitor your seminar programme(s) – aim for 50% female (or at least 35%).


Annual Appraisal

  • Is it being done?
  • If not, why not?
  • Is promotion being discussed?
  • Is flexible working being discussed?
  • Is development and training being discussed?

Staff Development

  • Are your staff attending development opportunities?
  • If not, why not?
  • Is there a gender difference?
  • Do your staff have a personal development plan?
  • Is it discussed in appraisal?
  • Monitor engagement with E&D training specifically.

Flexible Working Policies

  • Publicise them
  • Find out about informal arrangements
  • Find out about formal requests and outcomes.
  • Check gender breakdown.

Publicise Athena SWAN and related activities

Mentoring – what is available – formal or informal. Measure uptake and gender breakdown.

Do you model and monitor workload and allocate work fairly?

Consider promotions – organise workshops.

Other ideas:

  • Work shadowing into senior roles
  • Appoint Deputies
  • How about fixed terms of office for jobs – 3 to 5 years. Then rotate!


  • Consider your advertising – where/how/wording – is your advertising aimed at an already gender biased group.
  • Consider the gender breakdown of the applications – it can be improved.
  • Shortlisting – how does the gender breakdown in shortlisting compare to that of applications. It should be similar. Are you evaluating the CVs in a manner that avoids bias (perhaps unconscious)
  • Interviewing – your panel should include both genders. Recruit externally if necessary. Avoid unfair and unconscious bias.



  • Induction – is it being done? Are they receiving appropriate information about flexible working, promotions etc…
  • Probation – is it being done? Is appropriate training been given to line managers and staff.
  • Mentoring – should be available from the start.