This page was written in February 2019 and last updated in August 2020.
Why this is important to us
We are trying to build a global community of people who have made helping others a core part of their lives, and are using evidence and scientific reasoning to figure out how to do so as effectively as possible.
This requires caring about outcomes, supporting fellow community members, seeking different skill sets, and engaging with a variety of perspectives. For this reason, we want to build a diverse, equitable, and welcoming community where people of different backgrounds feel supported, respected, and valued.
We want people to thrive in the community. EA’s most important value is caring about others. We extend that care to people around the globe, including our community members and colleagues. We want to see people thrive and feel a sense of belonging and sustained motivation in the community. We want EA-aligned organizations and discussion spaces to be healthy places for people from many backgrounds to consider and act on important questions.
We don’t want to put off talented people. If an EA-aligned newcomer concludes that effective altruism is not for “people like me,” they may not get involved, and the EA community may be less effective. Sustained underrepresentation (or complete absence) of some groups may also lock us in to a future in which EA is seen as being only open to certain groups. That can dissuade altruistic and analytical people from joining EA, and can cause current members of the community to feel isolated or discouraged.
We don’t want to miss important perspectives. If the community is not able to welcome and encourage members who don’t resemble the existing community, we will consistently miss out on the perspectives of underrepresented groups. For example, if we are based primarily in a few geographic, professional, or cultural areas, we may struggle to develop the understanding necessary to achieve our shared goals and build a better future together.
This is especially worrying because of the inequities that exist in the world. EA is part of larger global efforts to improve others’ well-being. We live in a world where resources are unevenly and unfairly distributed. This reality has moved many EA community members to action. But it also impacts the demographics of our community and our organizations, as well as our knowledge and attitudes about others. We seek to understand this context and act responsibly within it. As a community, we will continue to (1) encourage people with a lot of resources to use those resources to help others, and (2) support people who want to explore global problems and make a positive impact, whatever their background.
Without conscious effort, groups tend to maintain a similar demographic makeup over time and develop expectations of how things “should be” that can favor one group over another. Early arbitrary differences may become codified and institutionalized inequities. We want to avoid this. Counteracting the tendency toward homogeneity or narrowness requires deliberate action. We believe that we need to direct more attention and effort toward diversity for the long-term health of our community.
Diversity comes in many forms. Below, we highlight a few focus areas that we currently think are most pressing.
Where we are now
According to the 2019 EA Survey (n = 2,513), the effective altruism community has these demographics:
- 71% male, 27% female, and 2% other gender identities
- 87% White, 10% Asian, 5% Latin American or Spanish origin, 1% Black, and 4% other racial identities (categories as they appear in the EA Survey)
- 86% non-religious, 14% people with religious affiliations
- 60+ different countries; 39% live in the US, 16% UK, 7% Germany, 7% Australia, 4% Canada, 26% all other countries
At CEA’s most recent event, EAGxVirtual 2020, registrants reported this demographic data (n = 1,858):
- 62.2% male, 32.8% female, and 4.9% other gender identities
- 68.7% White, 16.7% Asian, 3.8% Latin American or Spanish origin, 1.3% Black, and 2.8% other racial identities
- 70+ different countries
Members from all of these backgrounds have made and continue to make valuable contributions to effective altruism. We want this to continue and grow.
In some areas, the demographics of EA are similar to the early demographics of the fields where many EA groups first started (including the University of Oxford, philosophy, tech, and finance). Many institutions within those fields are also taking steps to increase diversity, equity, and belonging, and we think EA can learn from their successes and failures.
We think CEA’s current team has had success in creating a workplace that works well for people of different genders, sexual orientations, dis/abilities, and fields of study. We also have staff who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and hold different value systems, and are discussing how that impacts our work together. Since we work with a global community, we think CEA would benefit from more racial/ethnic and geographic diversity.
Demographic information can be personal in nature, but we can share general information about our current full-time staff (19 individuals, as of July 2020):
- From 2017-2020, the staff gender balance has been roughly equal between women and men.
- Staff are currently majority white and all white-presenting. Some staff are multiracial and/or come from BIPOC families.
- Twenty-plus percent of staff identify as queer/LGBTQ+.
What CEA is doing about it
We want to build consideration for diversity, equity, and belonging into all of our work at CEA; it shouldn't be an add-on or an afterthought. As with all issues in effective altruism, we seek the strongest evidence we can find to prevent, prioritize, and address problems. Where evidence is unclear, we seek advice and proceed with humility, using pilot projects to check our intuitions.
We want people in the community to:
- Be able to explore questions about how to do good together, carefully and analytically
- Be able to contribute their best work, and to feel recognized and valued for that work
- Know that people like themselves can participate in every level of the community, including decision-making or leadership roles
- Sometimes feel a sense of ease and shared community with people who have similar perspectives
- Often feel challenged by or curious about new perspectives
- Feel excitement about collaborating with others
- Be able to find support so their efforts are sustainable over the long term
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 demographic imbalances
- Being tokenized or included in a perfunctory way because of their demographic background
- Being treated primarily as a member of their demographic group rather than as an individual
Here are examples of how CEA is working on diversity, equity, and belonging. This is a work in progress.
Within the community, we:
- Provide guides, workshops, and presentations on diversity in EA and how to make local groups more diverse and welcoming. See Building a diverse and inclusive movement (June 2020).
- Spread norms of integrity and collaboration through documents like Considering Considerateness and our Guiding Principles, and, we hope, through our own actions.
- Consult with local group organizers and members about how to improve the experiences in their groups for members of various genders, races/ethnicities, native languages, dis/abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, faiths, ages, personalities, fields of study, etc.
- Have CEA staff on the 2020 board of directors for the Women and Nonbinary Altruism Mentorship network (WANBAM), founded in 2019.
- Support EAGx conferences in nine countries so far. This has included areas with relatively new effective altruism communities, such as EAGx Hong Kong and EAGx Nairobi.
- Support EA groups in more than 20 countries. For example, across our 2018 and 2019 rounds 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.
- Have staff positions dedicated to responding to community concerns. Since 2015, CEA has had an experienced staff person focused on the health of the EA community. Community liaisons are available to receive reports, complaints, or requests for assistance from community members. We believe it’s valuable to have experienced contact people who can respond if community members experience discrimination, harassment, or other issues that impact their well-being in the community.
- 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 equitable and inclusive.
- Provide a stewardship program at EA Global and EAGx, which matches first-time attendees with returning attendees. This program provides connections between first-time attendees and returning attendees from many backgrounds, including those from backgrounds underrepresented in EA.
- Solicit nominations of excellent speakers for EA Global and other events who are members of underrepresented groups in EA.
- Have improved gender and racial/ethnic representation among presenters at EA Global conferences. Across both EA Global conferences in 2019 (London and San Francisco), 44% of speakers were women or non-binary (compared to 30% in the EA survey) and 28% of speakers were Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) (compared to 13% in the EA survey).
Note: Our events track demographics, but do not have quotas. We invite excellent speakers because we think they are doing excellent work. We don’t want to stay limited by the common tendency to first work from our personal networks when making speaker recommendations, since those networks may be homogeneous. We think it would be a mistake and an inaccurate representation of EA talent if we did not take steps to correct for this.
Within CEA, we:
- Have several specialist advisors on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We are seeking to expand that network over time.
- Hired a staff member in 2019 who had experience with evaluating and implementing DEI efforts in higher education, alongside DEI mentors. After a period of learning about CEA’s programs, Sky Mayhew began working with CEA leadership in January 2020 on effective DEI strategies for the organization. In May 2020, CEA contracted a DEI consultant to assist with this work. (This work is still in progress, but see our 2019 Review and 2020 Plans for brief sections on diversity.)
- Share and discuss historical and contemporary materials with our staff about racism, anti-blackness, white supremacy, and racial justice, including materials listed here: A message to community members, in light of global protests for racial justice
- Read and share learning materials about working cross-culturally, for example, The Culture Map.
- Collect baseline data to check for disparate experiences across our programs. In order to evaluate any future DEI efforts, we need to have baseline data. Starting in 2019, our programs and events give the option for survey respondents to provide more demographic data (such as age, ethnicity, nationality, etc.).
- Have flexible leave policies and work schedules that cover many kinds of families, mental or physical health scenarios, and dis/abilities. We actively encourage our staff to take care of their mental and physical health. We seek resources to help community members access unbiased and culturally informed care.
- Design roles around people’s strengths and organizational needs, rather than expecting everyone to fit into standard job description boxes.
- Audit our hiring processes for bias, improve professional networks, and test ways to reduce the homogeneity of our hiring pools. This is a work in progress and we expect our processes may change in 2020.
Note: It is a common DEI pitfall for people to believe that job candidates from underrepresented groups are more likely to be selected because of demographics rather than qualifications. This is not CEA’s process. We know there are many qualified candidates from underrepresented groups who may not already have connections to CEA staff, and we want to make sure our search does not miss those candidates. We want qualified candidates with a variety of backgrounds to know that CEA is a good place to apply and ensure CEA is a good place to work. We also want our staff to have the skills and perspectives we need to serve global community members well.
Current efforts in hiring we think are promising: developing job requirements and job descriptions that describe skilled candidates from a wide range of backgrounds; scripting interviews and/or recording interviews with the goal of reducing interviewer bias; weighting work trial tasks more heavily than resumes and interviews; asking people to nominate qualified candidates from underrepresented groups who might be overlooked in our existing networks; building relationships across fields to expand our existing networks.
How you can contribute to diversity in the movement
- Check out resources like Making EA Groups More Welcoming and Research on Effective Strategies for Equity and Inclusion in Movement-Building. Work together with peers and advisors to identify substantive actions you can take over the long term. And avoid the temptation to reach for “quick fix” strategies; as with other research areas, many interventions don't work, some interventions seem much more likely to work than others, and there is still a lot to learn.
- Especially for those in leadership and community-building roles, seek advice and research to be an effective leader, mentor, and community builder in a diverse team. Learn ways to recognize disparate experiences, bias, and mistreatment, as well as how to intervene or prevent them. Perhaps most importantly, learn to recognize and foster a variety of talents. Understanding and supporting each other is important for our community’s success.
- Look for opportunities to encourage and recognize people from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in EA. For example, brainstorm excellent speakers from underrepresented groups whom you could suggest for EA Global or as mentors.
- Remember that topics like diversity, where emotions can run high, are topics where it is especially important to practice a collaborative spirit. Charitable, in-depth discussions of well-specified questions are an essential part of how we make intellectual and altruistic progress together, perhaps especially on contentious issues. People who haven’t experienced an issue, however, may also have less experience discussing it or analyzing it with those who have. In that case, it’s often especially useful to practice being a patient listener in order to develop a more thorough understanding and ask better questions.
The best way to reach us for questions or suggestions is our contact form, which you can complete anonymously or with your name.