Diversity and inclusion are topics that matter a great deal to us at CEA. Our mission is to create a global community of people who have made helping others a core part of their lives, and who use evidence and scientific reasoning to figure out how to do so as effectively as possible. We care deeply about creating a supportive and welcoming community that makes that possible. Thus we consider these issues at every level of our work, from our own workplace, to projects we run, to norms we encourage in the community.
We strive to connect talented people with important problems they can work on together. As part of our mission, our community seeks to pool the best evidence and reasoning we can, and we need varying perspectives in order to do so.
CEA recognizes that according to the most recent EA Survey, the effective altruism community has significant demographic slants:
- 70% male, 26% female, 2% non-binary, and 2% people who preferred not to answer
- 89% white, 11% people of color
- 81% between 20-35 years old, 19% older or younger
- 80% non-religious, 20% people of faith
- 49% in North America, 38% in Europe, and 12% on other continents
We recognize that members from all of these backgrounds have made and continue to make valuable contributions to the movement, and we want this to continue and grow. CEA seeks to ensure that all members of the community are able to make the contributions that reflect their full potential. This means ensuring that they are not hampered by discrimination, misrepresentation, or unfair treatment.
We want to look closely for problems that could be indicated, or caused, by an overly homogenous community. Demographic homogeneity can create concern that the skills of people from one group will not be fully recognized or valued in a community that is primarily from another group. If an EA-aligned newcomer concludes that effective altruism is not for “people like me,” EA misses the chance to benefit from additional perspectives and skills.
If the community is not able to welcome and encourage members who don’t resemble the existing community, we may ossify with only the backgrounds and skillsets already represented in the community, and miss opportunities to grow. This is of particular concern given our belief that effective altruist projects need more talented staff with a variety of skills. A community based primarily in a few geographic, professional, or cultural areas may lack understanding of other areas. That’s a serious problem for a group that wants to make significant changes in the world.
Sustained under-representation (or complete absence) of some groups may lock us in to a future where CEA or EA are always seen as being only open to a certain demographic. That can dissuade talented people from underrepresented groups from joining EA in the future and can cause current EA members from underrepresented groups to feel isolated or discouraged. This scenario could reduce the chances of achieving our shared goals for a better future together.
Without conscious effort, groups tend to maintain a similar demographic makeup over time. Counteracting that tendency toward narrowness and homogeneity takes attention and effort. It's a tradeoff that we think should be considered carefully, without prescribing that either side of the balance should always prevail. Currently we think the EA community is erring too far on the side of homogeneity, and that more attention and effort towards diversity would be worthwhile.
Here is what we want people to experience in the community:
- To be able to contribute their best work, and feel valued for that work
- A sense of excitement about collaborating with others
Here is what we do not want people to experience:
- Discrimination or mistreatment
- Not being taken seriously because of their demographic background
- Feeling isolated and stressed due to extreme demographic imbalances
- Being tokenized, or included in a perfunctory way because of their demographic background rather than because of their ideas, skills, and experience
- Being treated primarily as a member of their demographic group rather than as an individual
In our efforts on diversity and inclusion, we seek to learn from and avoid common pitfalls. We try to address specific patterns or situations of concern where needed and create robust policies that support a healthy organizational culture, yet avoid overgeneralizing or creating one-size-fits-all responses. As with all issues in effective altruism, we seek the best evidence we can find to prevent, prioritize, and address problems.
While diversity and inclusion efforts are ongoing at CEA, some of our actions are summarized here. We also invite you to contact us with suggestions, concerns, or questions.
Internally, as an organization, we:
- Developed internal policies, such as parental leave and hiring practices, to make our workplace better for people from different groups.
- Have a gender-balanced staff. From 2017-2019 the staff gender balance has been roughly equal between women and men.
At the community level, we:
- Created a staff position dedicated to responding to community concerns. Since 2015, CEA has had an experienced staff person focused on the health of the EA community. The community liaison is available to receive reports, complaints, or requests for assistance from community members. We believe it’s valuable to have an experienced contact person who can respond if community members experience discrimination or harassment, or other concerns that impact their well-being in the community.
- Support EA groups in more than 20 countries. In our last round of EA community building grants, most grants supported local organizers in areas where English is not the predominant language. However, these are mostly in Europe and North America.
- Support EAGx conferences in nine countries so far. This includes areas with relatively new effective altruism communities, such as EAGx Hong Kong and EAGx Nairobi.
- Provide guides, workshops, and presentations on diversity in EA and how to make local groups more welcoming.
- Consult with local group organizers and members about how to improve the experiences that women and people of color have in their groups.
- Spread norms of integrity and collaboration through documents like Considering Considerateness and our Guiding Principles, and, we hope, through our own actions.
- Advise other EA organizations that seek to improve their staff diversity. At the invitation of those organizations, we have conducted interviews with women and people of color familiar with the organizations. We then passed along feedback to the organizations about how they might adjust their culture and policies to be more inclusive.
- Improved gender balance of speakers and presenters at EA Global conferences. Over our six conferences during the last two years, 41% of speakers were female or non-binary, compared to 30% in the overall EA community.
- Emphasized “doing good together” as the theme of the EA Global conferences in 2017. We believe that effective altruism should not be a solitary pursuit, but a collaborative effort between people and groups with different backgrounds, skills, and viewpoints.
Here are areas where we haven’t been satisfied with our own progress:
- Racial/ethnic diversity of our staff
- Racial/ethnic diversity of attendees, speakers, and presenters at EA Global and other events we hold
- Check out resources like Making EA Groups More Welcoming.
- Consider joining the Diversity & Inclusion in EA Facebook group.
- Remember that topics like diversity, where emotions can run high, are topics where is it especially important to be charitable, careful, and considerate in discussion.
Please let us know if you have suggestions for improvements we could make in our work.
The best way to reach us is our contact form, which you can complete anonymously or with your name.