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Topic 7: Evidencing Your Success in Gender Equality

On this page you will find guidance on evidencing your success in gender equality as part of the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter.

On this page you will find guidance on the following:

  • Understanding What Success Looks Like
  • Using Your Data
  • Outcomes and Impact
  • Sustainability
  • How to Learn from Mistakes

After you have completed the previous steps and embedded the activity that you are undertaking towards greater gender equality, you must consider how you will evidence your results. If you have ensured that your outcomes and actions are well-managed and measurable, this step will be easy!

Evidencing the success of your changes will look very like the processes you went through to identify your needs in the first place. Different types of activity and outcomes will necessitate different types of evidence.

Guidance video on evidencing your success in gender equality in the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter

In this video, Jane Iddon, Advance HE Charters Assessment Manager explores evidencing your success in gender equality in the context of the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter to assist members preparing an application under the new Charter framework.

Understanding What Success Looks Like

It is important to remember that success in gender equality will not always look the same. While this topic will cover some of the ways that success might be evidenced, it cannot cover everything. As discussed in relation to data and culture, evidencing inequalities or equalities can be complex.

For example, improvements in culture may be felt more than they are shown in quantitative data. It is important to remain flexible and to be creative in your approach to evidencing the impact of any changes.

It is also true that throughout the process of making change, success may look different to different people. Individual actions will impact differently on individuals and in some instances may not have even been intended to impact everyone. While it is important to collect feedback on how changes have worked for people it is also important to remember that impact may not be apparent immediately but rather may become clearer over time.

Despite these challenges, success in this context should theoretically be easy to identify. Focus on the outcomes that you identified and how each action in turn lead to them. If you know that the actions occurred successfully and that they led to the outcomes that were specified then you are well on your way to evidencing success. All that is left is to evidence the results of the outcomes which we will discuss below.

Using your Data

Some of your success will be evidenced by data. In the same way as original needs were identified through the initial data collected and analysis, the success of interventions will be shown through the same data. This data can be collected and interrogated in the same way as discussed in Collecting and Analysing Data.

For example, if HR data suggested that there was a gender imbalance in management level positions and an action was created to combat this then the updated HR data for the next few years will show whether or not there is more gender balance in management roles.

In the example above we can see that wider HR data easily evidences a change as a result of an action. Larger scale and more longitudinal data can be very useful for evidencing change as patterns are easy to spot. If a change has impacted the patterns of the data this is a very powerful way to evidence change, and additionally, longer-term data can prove the sustainability of the change.

If large-scale data demonstrates change it is worth thinking about how this might be communicated best. Graphics produced alongside statistics for example can be visually very clear and impactful. Posters evidencing this success can be put up around the institution and communication about your success can be clear and easy to understand.

It might be however that the data collected by the institution itself may not be the best choice for evidencing the success of all actions.  Many institutions collect certain types of data in cycles and so it might be that a year or so may pass before updated data is collected. In some institutions this may be longer. Therefore, you may wish to collect your own data to evidence your changes. If you have designed sufficiently specific and actionable actions, then it should be easy to identify what kind of data needs to be collected to evidence outcomes.

For example, if an action aimed to hold gender equality training for staff with the outcome being that staff would be better able to incorporate equalities into their roles, then the best way to collect data on this might be to survey staff. You could conduct a brief survey asking them if they completed the training and what impact it had on their understanding and practice.

In other instances, you may need data that is more qualitative than quantitative. Setting up focus groups or for a for qualitative feedback can help gauge more conceptual changes and gives people an opportunity to go into more personal detail about how changes have affected them.

For example, discussing recent changes with a focus group of minority gender staff might give them the opportunity to provide insights and case studies into how changes made them feel day-to-day. It might be that more accessible lab facilities or new career support initiatives may have made them feel more included or may have made their work easier but this can be difficult to identify without a conversation.

You do not just need to use qualitative methods to find out how things have impacted people. You can still ask about how people feel when using quantitative methods.

Outcomes and Impact

If your action plan has been well-considered and well-developed and your actions are associated with particular outcomes it should be easy to identify which actions have occurred and which outcomes have been successful. In some instances, actions may have needed to be altered or outcomes may not look how you were expecting them to. This does not mean that you have not been successful in making changes.

Impact is a word that many will have heard several times over in various areas of their career. It has become a focus for many elements of academic life. Just as it is valuable to evidence your success in research for example, it is valuable to evidence your success in gender equality. As such we can use the idea of impact as a way of evidencing success.

Evidence of impact can organised in a number of ways. The Economic and Social Research Council provide a helpful conceptualisation of the three forms that impact can take:

Athena Swan topic 7 guidance
  1. Instrumental. In this form of impact, we might see a real world influence over policy and practice. It might be that we can demonstrate instrumental impact by proving that we have changed behaviours or patterns of work. We might be able to demonstrate that the population of our institution has evolved or that we have different processes for reporting and approaching inequalities.
     
  2. Conceptual. In this form we might look more at less tangible impacts. These might include different approaches towards issues, a different conceptualisation of gender and inequality or a reframing of debates. While evidencing this form of impact may be harder than others this is arguably the most important impact for long-term change.
     
  3. Capacity building. This form of impact is about developing capacity and sustainability. This might look like skill development, different management of work plans and changes to infrastructure to allow for more of a sustained focus on equality.

Your application may take a different approach than the structure details above and your evidence for this may look different. These three elements merely provide a starting point but it can be useful to keep them in mind when developing your action plan and evaluating your outcomes.

You can find more guidance on monitoring and evaluating impact of equality and diversity initiatives here.

Sustainability

It is important – particularly at Gold level – that you evidence that the changes that you have made and continue to make are sustainable. While short-term changes and successes are admirable and positive they may not result in long-term gender equality. Throughout your application process you should keep sustainability at the front of your plans from the outset and think about how best to evidence your approach to it.

Sustainability can be difficult to measure in the shorter-term, especially in quantitative ways. It may be that it will take a number of years for the sustainability of the changes that you have made to be apparent and numerical data will likely take even longer to show this. However, there are ways to evidence the sustainability of your measures.

For example, making integrated and bureaucratic changes and evidencing that these have been approved and enacted is likely to be a longer-term change than the impact of a guest speaker. While the latter is certainly valuable, there needs to be a mixed approach to ensure that some actions are more practical and recognised by those higher up in the institution.

A layering of approaches can also result in more sustainable change. While it might be tempting to identify a single, easy action that you can claim has led to an outcome, often multiple actions spread across a period of time can lead to more sustainable change.

Demonstrating the reach of your actions is also important. If you are offering training for example to only a very small selection of people then it is only this small sample that you can claim are better equipped to work towards gender equality. Offering widespread and regular training to a larger proportion of people will naturally result in more widely-spread and longer-term change and potentially greater impact.

Learning From Mistakes

Finally, recognising success will naturally highlight areas that were perhaps not as successful. This is normal and natural and is expected when an applicant is engaging with multiple actions. It is important to reflect on what didn’t work as well, share this knowledge and learn from it. Ideally it would be best to build on this failure with modified actions that might be more successful. Plan responses to failures into the future of your work on gender equality and remember that although the process can be slow at times that it is a worthy and valuable one.