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Big grants demand big words

It’s indisputable – female researchers apply for less external research funding and have a lower rate of success, also relatively speaking, than their male colleagues. DANWISE, which fights for equal opportunities for researchers, will now teach women how to make an impact by using the right words, says vice-chairperson and Health researcher Ida Vogel.

Big grants demand big words, and also women must learn how to use them if they want to be taken into account. Original source image: National Archives and Records Administration.

Women must sing their own praises about their achievements more than they might want to, and be much better at talking about what they themselves – rather than ‘the team’ - excel at.

These are two central points from Ida Vogel, professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine and the vice-chairperson of DANWISE, The Danish Society for Women in Science, which invites all interested researchers to a free webinar under the title Bridging the gender gap in writing grants. The first online course will be held on Wednesday 2 September 14:00 - 16:00 and focus on the gender gap that women in particular should be aware of.

“It’s well-documented that women make fewer applications to foundations and secure less funding, also in relative terms, and one of the reasons is that women expect more of themselves than their male colleagues,” says Ida Vogel.

Style of writing reveals gender

"One example is the word 'excellent', which many women are intimidated by. They think that 'my research is definitely really good, but would I call it excellent...', and then they don’t apply. This is why we work on the actual words and dos and don’ts in the application,” she explains. This is also a reference to one of speakers at the webinar, Jenifer Clausell from the company Develop Diverse, who is one of the world's leading experts on the relationship between gender and writing style in grant funding.

Another issue that inhibits women is their frequent tendency to highlight the team's qualifications instead of explaining what they personally are experts in. A conscience issue that does not weigh on men to the same extent.

Apply for your own money!

"When you're a woman, it's socially unacceptable to sing your own praises at the expense of the team you're part of. But if you really want to achieve something with your research, you need your own money," says Ida Vogel.

So what you’re saying is ‘write like a man’?

"No, I don't think that’s how you should look at it. You should write like the woman you are, but you shouldn’t put yourself in a worse position because you haven't understood the rules of the game. Big grants demand big words, and you have to learn how to use them if you want to be taken into account – exactly like a job application. The reviewers who assess applications are used to a particular language and you must therefore learn to speak it," she says.

Although the webinar is aimed at women, men can also take part.

The webinar on 2 September is free of charge and will be followed by another webinar on 9 September – please note that registration is necessary. Read more about the organisation on AU's diversity and gender equality website and at Danwise.org.

NB: The webinar coincides with the Research Support Office’s previously mentioned writing café Time to write, which is aimed at all Health researchers. However, the Research Support Office has canceled the first writing café due to the special corona restrictions in Aarhus. For The next drop-in writing café see the Research Support Office’s events and workshops.


Clinical Professor & Vice-chairperson Ida Vogel
DANWISE & The Department of Clinical Medicine.
Email: iv@clin.au.dk
Mobile: (+45) 3152 3156