Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA

This post is a col­lec­tion of po­ten­tial solu­tions I’ve come to over 3+ years of ob­serv­ing, ex­pe­rienc­ing, think­ing about, read­ing ma­te­rial rele­vant to, and dis­cussing is­sues of di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion in the EA com­mu­nity, as­sisted by my ex­pe­rience in other com­mu­ni­ties.

“Diver­sity” is about rep­re­sent­ing peo­ple from di­verse walks of life. “In­clu­sion” is some­what more neb­u­lous, and there seems to be a mi­s­un­der­stand­ing about its mean­ing in the com­mu­nity: In­clu­sion is not about wel­com­ing ev­ery­one in, it’s about wel­com­ing in the right peo­ple and en­sur­ing we’re not ex­clud­ing them for ir­rele­vant crite­ria. I think the peo­ple who the effec­tive al­tru­ism com­mu­nity should work to en­gage — and I as­sume this isn’t very con­tro­ver­sial — are peo­ple who want to do the most good, or at least peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in do­ing good bet­ter.

There has been a lot of loose dis­cus­sion of these is­sues, mostly from those di­rectly af­fected, but few ac­tions taken to se­ri­ously ad­dress them. This post will ad­dress gen­der-based ex­clu­sion more than other is­sues as that’s the one I have the most knowl­edge on, but a lot of the prac­tices I sug­gest should make the com­mu­nity more in­clu­sive of a broader di­ver­sity of peo­ple. My goal is to keep the ball rol­ling by spurring fur­ther dis­cus­sion on solu­tions and helping peo­ple im­ple­ment the most promis­ing ones, so es­pe­cially if you are from an un­der­rep­re­sented group and/​or have ex­per­tise in this area, please do com­ment with your own thoughts, in­for­ma­tion, and ideas. Feel free to mes­sage me and I can post your com­ment anony­mously if you pre­fer.

Why is this some­thing we should pay at­ten­tion to?

Most peo­ple in the EA com­mu­nity who I speak with agree this is an im­por­tant is­sue, but for those who don’t, I’d like to for­mally lay out the rea­son­ing in this sec­tion.

Based on our de­mo­graph­ics, my ob­ser­va­tions, and many con­ver­sa­tions with women, peo­ple from other un­der­rep­re­sented back­grounds, and even peo­ple from over­rep­re­sented back­grounds who still felt or feel the com­mu­nity is too ex­clu­sion­ary, I think the EA com­mu­nity is not quite se­lect­ing for “peo­ple who want to do the most good” or the lighter ver­sion of that, but peo­ple who are both that and young, white, cis-male, up­per mid­dle class, from men-dom­i­nated fields, tech­nol­ogy-fo­cused, sta­tus-driven, with a propen­sity for chest-beat­ing, over­con­fi­dence, nar­row-pic­ture think­ing/​micro-op­ti­miza­tion, and dis­com­fort with emo­tions. Th­ese fea­tures sug­gest limi­ta­tions of our ca­pa­bil­ities, both in­di­vi­d­ual and col­lec­tive, that could be re­lieved if we worked harder on di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion.

I’ve met many peo­ple who are deeply driven to help oth­ers as much as pos­si­ble and who be­yond that are highly ca­pa­ble — e.g. high an­a­lyt­i­cal abil­ity, years of ex­pe­rience with non­profit man­age­ment, other spe­cial­ized skills, grad­u­ate de­grees in rele­vant fields — but who left, limit their in­volve­ment in, or never joined the EA com­mu­nity be­cause of their ex­pe­rience with its cul­ture and norms. Some of those who have stuck around do so be­grudg­ingly be­cause the com­mu­nity still offers them enough to be worth it or be­cause they think the com­mu­nity has so much po­ten­tial that bear­ing it to con­tribute what they can is worth it, but they’re not giv­ing us all they have to offer, and many oth­ers are turn­ing away en­tirely. One big effect here seems to be the ex­clu­sion of women, as sug­gested through my con­ver­sa­tions with many women and the com­mu­nity’s gen­der ra­tio of roughly 70% men and 2.7:1 men:women. The ex­clu­sion of peo­ple of color is a no­tice­able prob­lem as well, with e.g. black and his­panic per­sons severely un­der­rep­re­sented com­pared to U.S. de­mo­graph­ics. We’re los­ing the po­ten­tially huge amounts of re­sources that such peo­ple could bring to the EA move­ment: knowl­edge, ex­pe­rience, man­age­ment abil­ity, per­spec­tive, ideas, cre­ativity, an­a­lyt­i­cal abil­ity, emo­tional un­der­stand­ing, so­cial com­pe­tence, big-pic­ture think­ing, en­thu­si­asm, ca­reer cap­i­tal, ca­reer op­por­tu­nity, a va­ri­ety of spe­cial­ized skills, net­works, money — you name it.

See also Alexan­der Gor­don-Brown’s post on some other char­ac­ter­is­tics EA is miss­ing out on in terms of di­ver­si­ties of tal­ent, ex­pe­rience, opinion, and ap­pear­ance.

Not only are we miss­ing out on those in­di­vi­d­u­als and their re­sources them­selves, but a sum that would be greater than the whole of its parts: [Edit: As a com­menter noted, the con­tent of fol­low­ing sen­tence is de­bated in psy­chol­ogy.] A group’s col­lec­tive in­tel­li­gence is only mod­er­ately re­lated to its in­di­vi­d­u­als’ in­tel­li­gences, and gen­der-di­verse teams score higher on col­lec­tive in­tel­li­gence than all-male or all-fe­male teams (What Works: Gen­der Equal­ity by De­sign, 10). Re­search also shows that di­verse teams are more cre­ative, more in­no­va­tive, bet­ter at prob­lem-solv­ing, and bet­ter at de­ci­sion-mak­ing — see Ge­or­gia Ray’s post “Diver­sity and team perfor­mance: What the re­search says” for more de­tail. Com­pa­nies in the top quar­tile for di­ver­sity in gen­der and eth­nic­ity are 15% and 35% more likely to out­perform their in­dus­try’s me­dian perfor­mance, re­spec­tively, and com­pa­nies in the bot­tom quar­tile lag be­hind the me­dian. For­tune’s top 50 work­places for di­ver­sity list an av­er­age 24% higher year-over-year rev­enue growth than com­pa­nies that didn’t make the list, and com­pa­nies with mul­ti­ple women in the C-Suite are more prof­itable. Th­ese are all cor­re­la­tions, but the effect sizes are very large and the causal ex­pla­na­tion seems highly plau­si­ble.

There are also known is­sues in EA that seem likely to be miti­gated or elimi­nated through an in­crease in di­ver­sity. For ex­am­ple, this year’s EA Global San Fran­cisco con­fer­ence fo­cused on shift­ing the com­mu­nity to­wards “do­ing good to­gether.” Women tend to be more col­lab­o­ra­tive than men, so if the com­mu­nity had bet­ter gen­der rep­re­sen­ta­tion, we could already be think­ing big and em­pha­siz­ing do­ing good to­gether.

Even if peo­ple in our com­mu­nity are less prej­u­diced than the rest of so­ciety, small bi­ases can have big im­pacts: One simu­la­tion found that bias ac­count­ing for only 1% of var­i­ance in eval­u­a­tion scores re­sulted in the top level of the simu­lated work­force be­ing only 35% com­prised of the dis­crim­i­nated-against group, in­stead of 50% like the origi­nal pool (What Works: Gen­der Equal­ity by De­sign, 14).

Un­for­tu­nately I sus­pect some peo­ple in the com­mu­nity are con­tent, im­plic­itly or ex­plic­itly, to as­sume that women and peo­ple of color are in­her­ently so much worse than white men at think­ing about al­tru­ism effec­tively that the con­sti­tu­tion of the com­mu­nity is merely an effect of this pre­sumed differ­ence, and that as such putting effort into di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion would ei­ther be too difficult and costly to be worth­while or would dilute the com­mu­nity. I find this ar­gu­ment lack­ing given the al­ign­ment of that think­ing with demon­strated bi­ases in so­ciety at large — i.e. peo­ple tend to think that women are more in­tu­itively-driven and less an­a­lyt­i­cal than men, which does not seem to be borne out and in fact the op­po­site may be more likely — and given the sus­pi­ciously large gen­der and race dis­par­ity in EA, as well as the the very small size of the com­mu­nity at pre­sent. The lat­ter en­ables us to tar­get se­lec­tively, not ran­domly from the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, even if this loaded, sim­plis­tic, and to my knowl­edge un­founded claim is true. More­over, there are many ex­am­ples of women, white and of color, who felt or feel ex­cluded by the EA com­mu­nity, de­spite be­ing en­tirely on­board with the philos­o­phy of EA, hav­ing par­ti­ci­pated in the com­mu­nity for years, and hav­ing made ma­jor changes in their think­ing and lives be­cause of EA — they just re­ally dis­like the com­mu­nity.

Re­lat­edly, some may as­sume that our com­mu­nity is gen­uinely merit-based — that we sim­ply reach out to and in­clude the most qual­ified peo­ple, re­gard­less of their race, gen­der, etc. Did you know that, at least in an ex­per­i­men­tal set­ting, when or­ga­ni­za­tions es­pouse mer­i­toc­racy man­agers show greater gen­der-based dis­crim­i­na­tion than those at other com­pa­nies? And that hav­ing a gen­der quota is more likely, as­sum­ing prob­a­bly that an or­ga­ni­za­tion is com­pe­tent at hiring, to weed out mediocre men than to in­tro­duce mediocre women? Un­for­tu­nately most of the spe­cific de­tails of the con­clu­sive and per­va­sive sex­ism I have ex­pe­rienced, seen, and heard of first-hand within the EA com­mu­nity are con­fi­den­tial — and I don’t just mean sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault, there are other more per­ni­cious and more preva­lent forms of sex­ism in so­ciety and in the com­mu­nity, such as the hold­ing of women to higher stan­dards of com­pe­tence and the con­sis­tent un­der­es­ti­ma­tion of women’s trust­wor­thi­ness (What Works: Gen­der Equal­ity by De­sign, 27). Hap­pily some of it has been ac­knowl­edged by its offen­ders, who have in some cases stated cred­ible in­ten­tions to im­prove — though whether they are in fact im­prov­ing takes time to as­sess, and with­out on­go­ing per­sonal or even cul­tural sup­port they may find im­prov­ing difficult. Even with­out the de­tails of spe­cific ex­pe­riences peo­ple have had, it should be suffi­cient to ob­serve that there are many ex­am­ples of qual­ified peo­ple be­ing ex­cluded, and no ev­i­dence has been offered to jus­tify the as­sump­tion — which was re­cently voiced, to no op­po­si­tion as I un­der­stand it, on a panel at EAGxBer­lin — that we are merit-based. [Edit: I want to note as well that who EA seems to se­lect for matches ex­cep­tion­ally well with priv­ilege in so­ciety at large, which would be quite a co­in­ci­dence.]

Some peo­ple in the com­mu­nity have made other thor­oughly un­rea­son­able claims to jus­tify the sta­tus quo, such as that women would be a dis­trac­tion in the work­place. If they are, the prob­lem is en­tirely the men who can’t ad­here to ba­sic pro­fes­sional norms and who pre­sume their con­tri­bu­tions so im­por­tant that the minor cost to them of be­ing less sex­ist out­weighs all of the po­ten­tial con­tri­bu­tions of all the women they’re keep­ing out. To my knowl­edge this claim was re­canted — un­der pres­sure or re­flec­tion, I’m not sure — but it’s a red flag for other sex­ism. Some­one else has said women aren’t as will­ing as men to take low salaries for al­tru­is­tic pur­poses, ap­par­ently in ig­no­rance of the rest of the non­profit world, whose vol­un­teers and work­force are over­whelm­ingly women. Such un­ri­gor­ous­ness should be thor­oughly dis­cour­aged.

I think the ma­jor­ity of the prob­lem, how­ever, is that while many peo­ple know we have a prob­lem, they don’t know what they them­selves can do about it.

What changes can we make to more effec­tively se­lect for the right peo­ple?

The ev­i­dence base on effec­tive strate­gies to re­duce prej­u­dice and in­crease in­clu­sion in gen­eral is weak, though grow­ing. I don’t claim that the fol­low­ing are all of the an­swers, nor nec­es­sar­ily the best an­swers, nor even that they’re all right or in­volve no trade­offs. My aim is just to put my ideas out there in the in­ter­est of con­tinued dis­cus­sion and ac­tion on this is­sue. I also don’t claim to be perfect in im­ple­ment­ing these my­self, but I do gen­er­ally as­pire to em­body those I’m failing in.

● Rec­og­nize that there is a prob­lem, in so­ciety at large, in the com­mu­ni­ties EA sources from, and within the EA com­mu­nity. Even if you are not con­vinced by the ev­i­dence I’ve pre­sented about why this is a prob­lem our com­mu­nity needs to ad­dress, you should still be com­pel­led by the fact that so many peo­ple both in EA and el­se­where think we have a se­ri­ous prob­lem. Look to data — I in­clude barely any of the liter­a­ture on sex­ism and other sys­tem­atic bi­ases in this post be­cause it is vast and Google­able — and to ac­counts of peo­ple in the com­mu­nity — or no longer are — who are from the groups in ques­tion. Do not rely on your in­tu­itions or those of any­one lack­ing the per­spec­tives of peo­ple from un­der­rep­re­sented groups. If you dis­agree that this is an im­por­tant prob­lem or about any of the steps I sug­gest to make head­way on it, let’s have a dis­cus­sion so we can get to the truth of the mat­ter.

● Rec­og­nize that it is ex­tremely prob­a­ble that you har­bor bi­ases that you are not ac­count­ing for. Rec­og­nize that rec­og­niz­ing bias in so­ciety and our com­mu­nity isn’t enough — peo­ple tend to think they are less bi­ased than av­er­age, and tend to demon­strate the same lev­els of bias even when they are ex­pe­rienced with see­ing a bias, made ex­plic­itly aware of the bias, and asked to in­tro­spect to en­sure they are not mak­ing a bi­ased judge­ment (What Works: Gen­der Equal­ity By De­sign, 45-48). The lat­ter can even back­fire, which may be the effect of this whole state­ment, but I think trans­parency is suffi­ciently im­por­tant to out­weigh that risk. Even if you have ev­i­dence that you are suc­cess­fully de­bi­ased in some ways — e.g. cal­ibrat­ing against over­con­fi­dence in on­line tests — the so­ciety you grew up in has many bi­ases, and you are highly un­likely to be ex­empt from all of them. Peo­ple in the EA com­mu­nity might even be par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to some.

● Don’t pe­nal­ize the “heart” as though there is only the “head.” EA is both, and one is noth­ing with­out the other in this move­ment. I pre­fer to play the long game with my own in­vest­ments in com­mu­nity build­ing, and would rather for in­stance in­vest in some­one rea­son­ably sharp who has a track record of al­tru­ism and ex­presses in­ter­est in helping oth­ers most effec­tively than in some­one even sharper who rea­soned their way into EA and con­sumed all the jar­gon but has never re­ally given any­thing up for other peo­ple. I see ex­cep­tions to this be­ing the best in­vest­ment on the whole, but none who I think wouldn’t be here any­ways if we were fo­cus­ing much more on the former per­son­al­ities. In prac­tice, the low­est-hang­ing fruit to ele­vate the heart is to be em­pa­thetic with and kind to peo­ple. At the very least, en­sure you are not be­ing dis­mis­sive of peo­ple’s emo­tions, and in par­tic­u­lar fem­i­nine-coded emo­tions like em­pa­thy, grief, sad­ness, or love — things that drive a lot of peo­ple’s al­tru­ism. Some of the most tal­ented and re­s­olute peo­ple in this com­mu­nity are here be­cause they are deeply emo­tion­ally com­pel­led to help oth­ers as much as pos­si­ble, and we’re cur­rently miss­ing out on many such peo­ple by be­ing so cold and calcu­lat­ing. There are ways to be warm and calcu­lat­ing! I can think of a few peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who man­age this well.

● Re­cruit and pro­mote women to man­age teams. Women tend to be bet­ter man­agers than men.

[Edit: Ad­di­tional sug­ges­tion. Peo­ple in high places in the move­ment, par­tic­u­larly white men, pub­li­cly state the im­por­tance of EA be­ing di­verse and in­clu­sive to you.]

● CEA and EAF could both, or jointly, hire a Diver­sity & In­clu­sion Officer. CEA and EAF, your in­ten­tion is to be in­sti­tu­tional lead­ers of the EA com­mu­nity, so lead the way on this crit­i­cal as­pect of move­ment-build­ing — there is definitely a full-time job’s worth of ad­vis­ing and other work to do, prob­a­bly even just with the sug­ges­tions I list here. Some uni­ver­si­ties and com­pa­nies have such a po­si­tion, and I — and I’m sure oth­ers — would be happy to ad­vise on what the po­si­tion’s re­spon­si­bil­ities would look like. (Thank you Sana Al Badri for this sug­ges­tion.)

All or­ga­ni­za­tions should hire com­mu­ni­ca­tions staff who are versed in in­clu­sion­ary com­mu­ni­ca­tions prac­tices. Alter­na­tively, the Diver­sity & In­clu­sion Officer could train them.

● Adopt and en­force a clear policy — as or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vi­d­u­als — for deal­ing se­ri­ously and fully with ille­gal ac­tions like sex­ual ha­rass­ment and ex­plicit dis­crim­i­na­tion or dis­crim­i­na­tion re­vealed by HR or le­gal coun­sel. Com­men­su­rate con­se­quences and re­form pro­ce­dures, es­ca­lat­ing as nec­es­sary to ex­pul­sion, are crit­i­cal. The per­pe­tra­tor is not so much more im­por­tant than the greater num­ber of peo­ple they are driv­ing away, the risk of a law­suit to the or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­tect­ing them, or the risk they bring to the com­mu­nity’s rep­u­ta­tion, that such ac­tions should be pro­tected. If this com­mu­nity’s mem­bers are as smart as we like to think, us­ing a heavy hand once, if nec­es­sary at all, should be all it takes, so long as the threat of us­ing it again is cred­ibly main­tained.

● If you go out with col­leagues, en­sure you’re not just in­clud­ing the ones most like you. A lot of op­por­tu­nity to build skills, net­work, and ad­vance one’s ca­reer hap­pens out of the office, and fa­vor­ing some col­leagues over oth­ers can lead to sys­tem­atic dis­em­pow­er­ment. If you are a man and can’t go out with women col­leagues with­out think­ing of them sex­u­ally and mak­ing the in­ter­ac­tion un­com­fortable, or if you can’t have a con­ver­sa­tion about work and EA with women col­leagues at lunch, you should not be man­ag­ing any­one.

● If you see some­thing, say some­thing. Don’t leave the re­port­ing of prob­le­matic be­hav­ior to the peo­ple who di­rectly ex­pe­rience it. They are feel­ing dis­em­pow­ered and alienated and are usu­ally in a far less ca­pa­ble po­si­tion to do some­thing about it.

● If you ex­pe­rience some­thing, try to at least say some­thing to some­one. Whether you de­cide it is in your in­ter­est to say some­thing or not, en­sure you at least con­sider the risks to other peo­ple and the broader com­mu­nity if you do not. I ap­pre­ci­ate that in many if not most cases we just want to move on with our lives, and this bur­den should, as noted above, not be left to the peo­ple ex­pe­rienc­ing the prob­lem, who gen­er­ally face higher risk bring­ing it up than other peo­ple.

● We could es­tab­lish a web­site pro­vid­ing re­sources for le­gal coun­sel and en­abling peo­ple to anony­mously share ex­pe­riences re­gard­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, ha­rass­ment, and as­sault, both to in­form less-aware com­mu­nity mem­bers of is­sues in the com­mu­nity and to provide a sense of ac­countabil­ity to the move­ment as a whole, as the tes­ti­monies would be pub­li­cly ac­cessible.

● Up­date your val­u­a­tions of men’s com­pe­ten­cies down­wards, and of women’s up­wards, par­tic­u­larly when you are form­ing your first im­pres­sions. Peo­ple already in­ac­cu­rately per­ceive women as less com­pe­tent than men, even when their work is su­pe­rior, in ad­di­tion to which men over­es­ti­mate and over­sell them­selves while women un­der­es­ti­mate and un­der­sell them­selves. Yes, this will pe­nal­ize the rare men who rep­re­sent them­selves ac­cu­rately or un­der-rep­re­sent them­selves, and fa­vor the rare women who rep­re­sent them­selves ac­cu­rately or over-rep­re­sent them­selves, so take care, but the risk of over­cor­rec­tion is not suffi­cient rea­son to re­sort to the prej­u­diced sta­tus quo. Ad­di­tion­ally, in more long-term and for­mal en­vi­ron­ments, uti­lize stan­dard­ized and ob­jec­tive met­rics of com­pe­tency when­ever pos­si­ble, such as trial pro­jects when hiring. Re­lat­edly, con­sider pro­mo­tions and do hiring in rounds, not on a rol­ling in­di­vi­d­ual ba­sis.

● Am­plify the con­tri­bu­tions of peo­ple from un­der­rep­re­sented groups, in per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions, meet­ings, ar­ti­cles, pod­casts, Face­book posts, con­fer­ences — ev­ery­where.

● If a col­league from an un­der­rep­re­sented group can speak on an is­sue you’ve been asked to speak about, whether at a con­fer­ence or for a quote in an ar­ti­cle, give them the op­por­tu­nity. If they de­cline, ask why — they may be in­ter­ested but want PR train­ing.

● Giv­ing an­nouncer and mod­er­a­tor po­si­tions to peo­ple from un­der­rep­re­sented groups at con­fer­ences is an easy way to start in­clud­ing them more. That’s not a li­cense to not con­sider di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion el­se­where else, but it is a step. Many peo­ple are very ca­pa­ble of be­ing great em­cees and mod­er­a­tors, so there’s lit­tle or no rea­son not to use this op­por­tu­nity to in­clude them. Note that EAG Bos­ton and San Fran­cisco 2017 both had a white man as the em­cee.

● Don’t dis­miss or triv­ial­ize the al­tru­is­tic con­cerns or­di­nary peo­ple have. It’s great that peo­ple care about im­mi­gra­tion re­form, worms in chil­dren in im­pov­er­ished re­gions, and dog res­cue. It would be even more great if they put their en­ergy into efforts of greater im­pact, but mov­ing them in a more effec­tive di­rec­tion, whether within their cur­rently preferred pro­ject or cause or to an­other, is eas­ier done if they have a sense of com­mu­nity with you, which is eas­ier achieved if they know you care about the is­sues they care about. It’s all but im­pos­si­ble to achieve if you stick your nose in the air at their al­tru­ism be­cause their think­ing on the weighty and new topic of effec­tive­ness is un­der­de­vel­oped — like yours once was.

● Quit the hero wor­ship. Ma­jor progress is made by groups, not in­di­vi­d­u­als. Peo­ple should be praised for their in­di­vi­d­ual con­tri­bu­tions, and some peo­ple will be lead­ers, but that doesn’t mean other peo­ple aren’t con­tribut­ing as much or more. Hero wor­ship in EA is al­most always di­rected to­wards white men, and while it’s great to cel­e­brate their achieve­ments, over­do­ing that cel­e­bra­tion ex­ac­er­bates the is­sue of how we rep­re­sent our­selves to new­com­ers and out­siders, and en­courages a mas­culine, in­di­vi­d­u­al­is­tic cul­ture where new­com­ers can’t thrive.

● Do not con­sider any­one’s ar­gu­ments or po­si­tions above ques­tion­ing or crit­i­cism. Never pre­sume that some­one has no place ques­tion­ing some­one else whose in­tel­lect you laud. No one is in­fal­lible, and no one has ev­ery an­swer or has con­sid­ered ev­ery pos­si­ble an­gle and ar­gu­ment. This par­tic­u­lar form of hero wor­ship is a com­mon com­plaint from peo­ple who feel ex­cluded from the com­mu­nity.

Peo­ple from un­der­rep­re­sented groups: Own your worth. Don’t apol­o­gize for an A- job while oth­ers spin their C’s as A’s. Take credit for your work, even if you don’t per­son­ally want it, be­cause other peo­ple like you need to see your suc­cess. Don’t do the dishes when that’s some­one else’s re­spon­si­bil­ity this week. Ap­ply for the jobs you want, not just the ones you are ex­plic­itly fully qual­ified for, be­cause they’re writ­ten un­der the as­sump­tion that peo­ple are go­ing to ap­ply even when they only meet half the re­quire­ments — women don’t ap­ply to jobs un­less they meet all the posted re­quire­ments, whereas men ap­ply when they meet 60%.

When pos­si­ble, which is the vast ma­jor­ity of the time, use or­di­nary phras­ing in­stead of jar­gon, at least with peo­ple who have only re­cently be­come in­volved.

● Stop in­ter­rupt­ing peo­ple. Men are much more likely to in­ter­rupt than women are, and more likely still to in­ter­rupt women than other men. Not only does this dis­pro­por­tionately dis­em­power women, but it’s rude and off-putting to ev­ery­one.

When peo­ple are in­ter­ested in talk­ing through some­thing they’ve been think­ing about in EA, have a con­ver­sa­tion about it, even if you’ve already re­solved your own thoughts on the topic and even if you don’t think there’s any­thing for you in the con­ver­sa­tion. The other per­son will likely end up more in­formed and feel more wel­comed, and it won’t take too much of your time. Re­mem­ber too that be­ing will­ing to en­gage with new­com­ers and peo­ple of lower sta­tus or per­ceiv­able “use­ful­ness” is very com­mon in other com­mu­ni­ties, and par­tic­u­larly ad­vo­cacy com­mu­ni­ties, so when peo­ple act oth­er­wise it seems sur­pris­ing, rude and alienat­ing.

● Don’t em­pha­size earn­ing to give too much. This has been an on­go­ing dis­cus­sion, and I think we’re slowly do­ing bet­ter.

● Be just as wel­com­ing with peo­ple who do di­rect work on non-pri­or­ity prob­lems as you are with peo­ple who work in fi­nance or tech. Not only can peo­ple con­tribute a lot more to the com­mu­nity and move­ment than their in­come, but keep in mind too that fi­nance and tech speci­fi­cally are places with par­tic­u­larly bad rep­u­ta­tions for their ex­clu­sion of women and other his­tor­i­cally marginal­ized peo­ple.

● Em­pha­size that do­ing the most good will nec­es­sar­ily mean differ­ent things for differ­ent peo­ple. Even if we our­selves know we’re speak­ing in gen­er­al­ities, it can very eas­ily come off like we’re ad­vo­cat­ing a one-size-fits-all ap­proach, or as­sert­ing that any one cause or ca­reer path is the best path to max­i­mum im­pact for ev­ery­one.

● Rep­re­sent the com­mu­nity’s val­ues ac­cu­rately. This can be a challenge in a sin­gle 140 char­ac­ter tweet, but not in a whole Twit­ter feed or in a con­ver­sa­tion. Con­sis­tently pre­sent­ing anti-malar­ial nets as the com­mu­nity’s pri­mary con­cern is go­ing to at­tract peo­ple with that par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est. This means a rel­a­tively high pro­por­tion of peo­ple who are re­sis­tant to push­ing new fron­tiers, as global poverty is a pop­u­lar cos­mopoli­tan cause that nor­mal peo­ple can get lots of praise for con­tribut­ing to more effec­tively, with no or nowhere near the per­sonal risk of less main­stream causes and pro­jects. Such an em­pha­sis will also mean the com­mu­nity gets skipped over by peo­ple who are ex­plor­ing other and un­con­ven­tional ways of do­ing good.

Re­lat­edly, our pub­lic image can and should be weird in the right ways. It can say true, ab­stract, challeng­ing things like “We should con­sider the in­ter­ests of all sen­tient be­ings,” “We don’t have all the an­swers, our goal is to find and im­ple­ment them,” “How our ac­tions af­fect peo­ple in the far fu­ture could vastly out­weigh the im­pact they have now,” and “New tech­nolo­gies may trans­form the qual­ity of life on Earth and be­yond to a much greater ex­tent than they have even in the past cen­tury.” And it can do all that with­out us­ing jar­gon, with­out throw­ing around the term “AI” with no qual­ifi­ca­tion or ex­pla­na­tion, with­out look­ing or sound­ing like a young so­cially awk­ward white guy in tech, and while em­pha­siz­ing the al­tru­ism mo­ti­vat­ing these in­tel­lec­tual ex­plo­ra­tions and pro­vid­ing palat­able ex­am­ples of rel­a­tively high-im­pact ac­tions peo­ple can take — in­clud­ing, but not in­or­di­nately em­pha­siz­ing, those that best help in­di­vi­d­u­als in poverty. It’s not a ques­tion of ei­ther be­ing weird AI fan­boys or main­stream philan­thropists.

● Don’t get hos­tile in con­ver­sa­tions. Keep the fo­cus on the in­for­ma­tion and ar­gu­ments at hand.

● Don’t re­ward peo­ple for ag­gres­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tion styles. If you want to ex­press agree­ment with their con­tent, but their de­liv­ery is bad form, you can say for in­stance “I agree, but your [snark­i­ness, ad hominem com­ment, ex­ag­ger­a­tion, etc] was un­nec­es­sary and not con­ducive to rigor­ous dis­cus­sion.”

● Do not dis­pro­por­tionately pe­nal­ize women for ag­gres­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tion styles. When a man and woman are equally ag­gres­sive, peo­ple tend to see the man as more per­sua­sive but the woman as less cred­ible, and women are given feed­back that they’re “too ag­gres­sive” three times as of­ten as men. Both po­si­tions seem highly un­likely to line up with re­al­ity and are more likely un­con­scious efforts to pun­ish non­con­for­mity to gen­der stereo­types.

Re­lat­edly, if you find your­self judg­ing that a woman is too emo­tional, con­sider the men you know who are con­fronta­tional, who ar­gue ag­gres­sively, who have ex­pressed strong feel­ings about peo­ple they don’t know well, who can’t work well with at­trac­tive women, who jump to con­clu­sions based on un­ex­am­ined in­tu­itions, who are ob­sessed with ob­tain­ing sta­tus, who are snarky, who level in­sults at oth­ers reg­u­larly, or who stoop to piss­ing con­tests. If you’re in the EA com­mu­nity, you know lots of men who demon­strate mul­ti­ple such ten­den­cies. In all like­li­hood men just hide their emo­tions bet­ter than women, which does not mean their judge­ments are less emo­tion­ally-mo­ti­vated. It’s even pos­si­ble that men’s judge­ments are more emo­tion­ally-mo­ti­vated, as girls and women in so­ciety tend to have more so­cial en­courage­ment and op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine their emo­tions.

● Re­place com­pet­i­tive­ness with col­lab­o­ra­tive­ness. In suc­cess­ful com­mu­ni­ties, peo­ple em­power each other and be­come bet­ter off on the whole for it — an­other EA’s suc­cess strength­ens and grows the com­mu­nity, and the com­mu­nity’s strength and size helps you and your pur­poses. So: Is some­one’s counter to your ar­gu­ment mak­ing you feel defen­sive? This is an op­por­tu­nity to get closer to the truth, to­gether. Is some­one con­sid­er­ing start­ing a pro­ject that you were also think­ing of? Com­bine your re­sources, and if it needs just one leader, sort out who’s best po­si­tioned for it — that’s great for the pro­ject. Are your donors shift­ing funds to a new or­ga­ni­za­tion? Sounds like you should drop in­fe­rior pro­grams, and also like the com­mu­nity needs to grow the donor pool.

● Don’t try to take short­cuts to sta­tus, and par­tic­u­larly don’t try to gain sta­tus by dis­em­pow­er­ing other peo­ple. Sta­tus for most of us is not a zero-sum game. In fact, there is a lot of sta­tus to be gained by de­vel­op­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as some­one who em­pow­ers other peo­ple. So it doesn’t mat­ter what you’ve ac­com­plished, you are not above giv­ing a few min­utes to an en­thu­si­as­tic new EA who wants to learn how to get more in­volved, or at the least di­rect­ing them warmly to some­one who has more time to en­gage. And your pub­lic/​semi-pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion at an EA event is not so im­por­tant that you can’t take a few sec­onds to say hello to some­one try­ing to en­ter the con­ver­sa­tion and fill them in, or to change the topic for the new per­son — you can pick up the other con­ver­sa­tion again later.

Re­lat­edly, em­power peo­ple, don’t use them — act in good faith, and show faith in your com­mu­nity mem­bers. Con­sider the other peo­ple in the com­mu­nity your col­lab­o­ra­tors, nei­ther your com­pe­ti­tion nor a means to your ends. When col­lab­o­rat­ing with other EAs, be hon­est about your in­for­ma­tion, goals, and thought pro­cesses. Even if, for in­stance, you re­ally just want some­one to donate to or work for your pro­ject, and they’re de­cid­ing be­tween yours and an­other, you should still give them your hon­est thoughts — or a bet­ter source — and crit­i­cal or full in­for­ma­tion on the trade­offs you see, not just what you think will con­vince them to sup­port you in­stead of the other pro­ject. In­tro­duce them to peo­ple at the other pro­ject if they aren’t in­tro­duced already. Help them make their own de­ci­sion. Do­ing oth­er­wise in­cen­tivizes fur­ther dishon­esty and ma­nipu­la­tive­ness in the com­mu­nity.

Re­lat­edly, con­sider the big­ger pic­ture, in ev­ery­thing you do. The good you can do does not just en­com­pass the di­rect im­pact of your ac­tions, but also how they in­fluence other peo­ple. Estab­lish­ing stronger norms of hon­esty would both in­cen­tivize stronger norms of in­tel­lec­tual rigor and se­lect more strongly for new mem­bers who are in­tel­lec­tu­ally rigor­ous rather than ma­nipu­la­tive or ma­nipu­la­ble. It’s also helpful to prob­a­bly ev­ery­one as in­di­vi­d­u­als to have a va­ri­ety of peo­ple out there who ap­pre­ci­ate you and will be en­thu­si­as­tic about lend­ing you a hand when you choose to ask for one, so be care­ful han­dling fire around bridges.

Similarly, when con­sid­er­ing whether to go veg­e­tar­ian or take some other step to avoid par­ti­ci­pat­ing in a ma­jor moral prob­lem, con­sider how not do­ing so could val­i­date and per­pet­u­ate the bi­ases and self­ish­ness that en­able peo­ple com­mit that act nor­mally, and how that act could help oth­ers feel li­censed to do other self­ish and harm­ful things that you dis­agree with, like ly­ing to sex­ual part­ners about hav­ing an STI or be­ing dishon­est and un­char­i­ta­ble in rep­re­sen­ta­tions of your or­ga­ni­za­tion or preferred cause area.

Some peo­ple may have their own rea­sons for think­ing that it’s good for them to act in and use peo­ple in short-sighted ways, and to be con­fi­dent that they have noth­ing left to learn and no need to build so­cial cap­i­tal, but even if that ac­tu­ally is the right call for them in­di­vi­d­u­ally, such short-sighted self-in­ter­est is bad for the broader EA com­mu­nity and limits what it can ac­com­plish, so it should be dis­cour­aged. Con­tro­versy here may point to a deeper is­sue, of which I have seen con­cern­ing ev­i­dence, of some peo­ple us­ing the broader EA com­mu­nity as a mere con­duit to their preferred is­sue rather than a meet­ing place for ev­ery­one to learn from each other and help each other and grow the broader com­mu­nity and each other’s sub-com­mu­ni­ties on the whole. The com­mu­nity has a lot of room to grow, and ac­tively try­ing to can­ni­bal­ize each other is prob­a­bly not in any­one’s long-run in­ter­est. So when, for in­stance, new­com­ers ask me about AI safety, I give them a clear and palat­able in­tro­duc­tion and I an­swer their ques­tions or di­rect them to peo­ple who can an­swer bet­ter, and I do so even if we might not get a chance to talk about things I sus­pect would be a bet­ter use of their re­sources and which I have re­solved are bet­ter use of mine. For me, the EA com­mu­nity isn’t just an­other place to pitch an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy, it’s a place where I can learn and grow as an effec­tive al­tru­ist, and where I can help oth­ers learn and grow as effec­tive al­tru­ists. It’s a place where, in its bet­ter mo­ments, peo­ple do good to­gether, not alone.

● Give to the peo­ple in your com­mu­nity. Ac­knowl­edge their con­tri­bu­tions, in­tro­duce them to peo­ple they might be in­ter­ested in know­ing, offer them your ex­per­tise, help them when they need a fa­vor… this com­mu­nity is no ex­cep­tion to all com­mu­ni­ties’ needs for ba­sic pos­i­tive so­cial norms.

● When peo­ple make mis­takes, kindly and clearly iden­tify them. If the mis­take was not just an in­tel­lec­tual er­ror but harmed some­one, iden­tify it in the in­ter­est of achiev­ing jus­tice for the per­son who was wronged, but also and per­haps more im­por­tantly in the in­ter­est of helping the per­son who made the mis­take to grow and im­prove. That is to their benefit, the benefit of the com­mu­nity, the benefit of other peo­ple they would have gone on to wrong, and the benefit of oth­ers still who they’d be failing to help by fal­ling short of who they could be. En­courage and re­ward good be­hav­ior pri­vately and pub­li­cly, and dis­cour­age bad be­hav­ior pri­vately, and more pub­li­cly and severely as it be­comes more nec­es­sary to raise the costs to peo­ple of re­fus­ing to adopt bet­ter at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iors. If we are only con­cerned with the di­rect im­pact of our own ac­tions or don’t care about our omis­sions, we won’t get far in im­prov­ing this com­mu­nity — we need to em­power oth­ers to do bet­ter as well, so give peo­ple a gen­uine chance to im­prove.

To be clear, I’m not sug­gest­ing end­less sec­ond chances, and some ac­tions taken even once will war­rant zero tol­er­ance and im­me­di­ate ex­pul­sion.

Also, even peo­ple who are ex­cep­tion­ally hum­ble and ex­cep­tion­ally in­ter­ested in per­sonal growth still need to feel ac­cepted and their egos can still be wounded, so take care not to over­load peo­ple — give crit­i­cisms se­ri­ously but com­pas­sion­ately, fo­cus on pri­ori­ties, be clear about what hap­pened, why the ac­tion was a prob­lem, and what you think the per­son should have done in­stead, and in nor­mal cir­cum­stances it’s prob­a­bly best to give crit­i­cisms spar­ingly. Crit­i­cisms also have more cred­i­bil­ity and are less hurt­ful when the critic has gained the re­spect and ca­ma­raderie of the crit­i­cized.

● Ac­cept that you will make mis­takes, and take re­spon­si­bil­ity when you do. En­courage your­self to value hu­mil­ity and growth even if it hurts your pride. We all make mis­takes! When we are in­formed or oth­er­wise re­al­ize that we have, we should take re­spon­si­bil­ity, rather than ig­nore the mis­take or defend it and lose the op­por­tu­nity to im­prove — not to men­tion in­cen­tiviz­ing oth­ers to pri­ori­tize their own pride over self-im­prove­ment. Espe­cially if you can feel an ac­cu­sa­tion wound­ing your ego and alert­ing your defenses, or if you can’t ex­plic­itly ar­gue against an ac­cuser’s points, you are prob­a­bly not think­ing very clearly. It should be a norm in the com­mu­nity to com­fortably and ca­su­ally ad­mit “oh, you’re right I got that wrong” and “good point, I’ve changed my mind” and “I was not think­ing about that effect of my ac­tions, I’m sorry and thank you for bring­ing this to my at­ten­tion.”

● Take up that hu­mil­ity more gen­er­ally. Don’t judge that you’re right and an­other party is wrong be­fore en­sur­ing you know their rea­son­ing — ask some­one why they hold the po­si­tion they do, maybe they’ve thought of some­thing you haven’t just as you may be as­sum­ing you’ve thought of things they haven’t.

● You can dis­agree with peo­ple while en­tirely re­spect­ing their po­si­tions, ap­pre­ci­at­ing their con­tri­bu­tions, and rec­og­niz­ing them as an ally. The rea­son I spend my time strate­giz­ing to bring down an­i­mal farm­ing and to ex­pand hu­man­ity’s moral cir­cle in­stead of work­ing — di­rectly at least — on AI safety gen­er­ally seems to come down to in­tu­itive differ­ences be­tween my­self and peo­ple who pri­ori­tize di­rect work on AI safety. Th­ese differ­ences are some­times minor and in my ex­pe­rience gen­er­ally ir­rec­on­cilable with available in­for­ma­tion. I also dis­agree that near-term in­ter­ven­tions to help in­di­vi­d­u­als in poverty are the best use of most EA’s re­sources be­cause I don’t think lives mat­ter as much as well-be­ing, and poverty in­ter­ven­tions are not rel­a­tively ro­bust in their ad­dress of well-be­ing. I dis­agree with many of my al­lies and col­leagues about the value of farmed an­i­mal welfare re­forms and other near-term in­ter­ven­tions ul­ti­mately be­cause I tend to be more risk-tol­er­ant and com­pel­led by ex­pected value than they are, and be­cause I con­sider the net im­pacts of near-term in­ter­ven­tions suffi­ciently un­cer­tain that I don’t think it’s use­ful to con­sider them cat­e­gor­i­cally more mea­surable than in­ter­ven­tions whose in­tended im­pacts are less di­rect or fur­ther in the fu­ture.

Nonethe­less, I’m very ex­cited that these peo­ple are work­ing on these pro­jects, which I still con­sider im­por­tant even if I dis­agree that they’re the best use my or these in­di­vi­d­u­als’ re­sources, and I still have a lot of re­spect for some of these al­lies’ and col­leagues’ analy­ses, and I am deeply moved by their al­tru­is­tic drives and grate­ful for their con­tri­bu­tions to the EA com­mu­nity and to my own think­ing on these is­sues. Disagree­ment is crit­i­cal for find­ing the best an­swers to the kinds of ques­tions EAs ask.

● There is a point at which cham­pi­oning “free speech” ac­tu­ally in­hibits it, en­abling what was once in­no­va­tive, challeng­ing, rigor­ous dis­cus­sion to be­come re­gres­sive, harm­ful, thoughtless trol­ling and/​or iden­tity poli­tics. When peo­ple say severely in­tol­er­ant things that dis­en­fran­chise other peo­ple — es­pe­cially if they for in­stance can­not jus­tify it, re­spond to crit­i­cisms of it with ag­gres­sive rep­e­ti­tion of their claims with no ev­i­dence and/​or with per­sonal at­tacks, and can­not ex­plain why it’s im­por­tant that they say it at all — don’t tol­er­ate it.

For in­stance, it should be out­right un­ac­cept­able for some­one to say that women do not con­tribute to so­ciety and are leeches if they don’t offer men sex. This ac­tu­ally hap­pened, re­cently, and is a prob­lem for two rea­sons: One, the fac­tual claim is highly con­trary to eco­nomic and other data as well as ex­ten­sive anec­do­tal ev­i­dence, and such un­ri­gor­ous­ness should be dis­cour­aged. Two, the value judge­ment, which is ex­plic­itly sex­ist to an atyp­i­cally ex­treme de­gree, is well be­yond the limit of what the com­mu­nity should ac­cept as any kind of a “di­ver­sity of opinion” un­less we want to severely limit our di­ver­sity of par­ti­ci­pants, and as such that very di­ver­sity of opinion. Peo­ple are both less able to and less in­ter­ested in con­tribut­ing their re­sources to the com­mu­nity when they are treated with such hos­tility and when such hos­tility is ac­cepted by the com­mu­nity. It is women’s in­ter­ests to as­sume that ev­ery man who is okay with this per­son’s be­hav­ior has an ap­pal­lingly poor un­der­stand­ing of sex­ism in so­ciety, if not also of ba­sic so­cial norms gen­er­ally, and that as such he prob­a­bly har­bors a dan­ger­ous level of sex­ism him­self, if not also a shock­ingly — con­tex­tu­ally — limited in­tel­lec­tual ca­pa­bil­ities given the ob­vi­ous lack of in­tel­lec­tual rigor in the offen­der’s com­ments. So tol­er­a­tion of such com­ments makes the whole com­mu­nity look highly un­ap­peal­ing.

Hap­pily, this par­tic­u­lar in­di­vi­d­ual — who is prob­a­bly a troll in gen­eral — was banned from the groups where he re­peat­edly and un­re­lent­ingly said such things, though it’s con­cern­ing there was any ques­tion about whether this was ac­cept­able be­hav­ior. Maybe we should have a refer­ence doc­u­ment of what kinds of ac­tions in on­line fo­rums war­rant an ex­pla­na­tion of the prob­lem, en­su­ing non-en­gage­ment, warn­ings from the mod­er­a­tor, and bans.

To be clear, by tol­er­at­ing rude and in­tel­lec­tu­ally un­ri­gor­ous be­hav­ior we are in fact choos­ing to have such peo­ple in the com­mu­nity in the place of the more rigor­ous and com­pas­sion­ate peo­ple they are likely to put off. Such tol­er­a­tion of in­tol­er­ance is also likely to nor­mal­ize that in­tol­er­ance and as such to in­crease the bi­ases in the rest of com­mu­nity. It con­cerns me that I even have to bring this up as a prob­lem, as I think e.g. most For­tune 500 com­pa­nies have by now figured out that it’s very im­por­tant that em­ploy­ees not be out­right ass­holes to other em­ploy­ees. [Edit: ex­am­ple that came to mind redacted be­cause while prob­le­matic, I would not de­scribe the per­son as an “out­right ass­hole,” though this ac­tion was still a se­ri­ous prob­lem.] Yes, some peo­ple in broader so­ciety now re­spond to cor­rectable offenses with a mob men­tal­ity and too much readi­ness for os­tra­ciza­tion, but just be­cause some peo­ple have swung too far past the mark doesn’t mean we should de­fault to a sta­tus quo that falls so short of it.

Hiring pro­cesses and em­ployee man­age­ment are a big topic, but for starters, take care with job post­ings: Use less mas­culine lan­guage; talk about the con­crete skills and ex­pe­rience you’re in­ter­ested in in­stead of ap­peal­ing to peo­ple with “startup” ex­pe­rience; en­sure that the qual­ities you say are “re­quired” are ac­tu­ally re­quired; and ap­pre­ci­ate that women may con­ceive of their achieve­ments differ­ently than men tend to, for in­stance at­tribut­ing their suc­cesses more to their team rather than to them­selves.

● Men, ac­cept that many women will be your equals, and oth­ers your su­pe­ri­ors, in in­tel­li­gence, knowl­edge, and other abil­ities you as­pire to or pride your­self in. Even those who aren’t will some­times have a bet­ter ar­gu­ment or more rele­vant in­for­ma­tion than you. And no, just be­cause you can point to one or two women whose in­tel­lects and other com­pe­ten­cies you ap­pre­ci­ate does not mean you are eval­u­at­ing other wom­ens’ fairly — es­pe­cially if the women you are think­ing of are in your com­mu­nity and share your po­si­tions. The same goes for peo­ple of color, and oth­ers.

● Peo­ple who be­long to cur­rently dis­en­fran­chised groups, adopt the at­ti­tude that the suc­cess of other peo­ple who are dis­en­fran­chised, par­tic­u­larly for the same rea­sons as you, is your suc­cess. Women who en­counter dis­crim­i­na­tion early in their ca­reers may dis­tance them­selves from other women, re­fuse to help them, and al­ign them­selves with men at other women’s ex­pense. The dis­em­pow­er­ment of women in the EA com­mu­nity may make women feel as though there is only room for a few women to have some voice, but we don’t need to ac­cept some­one else’s nar­ra­tive that we have to com­pete with each other — we can make more room for each other, like women in other mas­culine men-dom­i­nated com­mu­ni­ties have done be­fore us and are do­ing alongside us, by em­pow­er­ing each other. As I’ve said already, this is not a zero-sum game: Every per­son of color’s suc­cess should, with sus­tained in­clu­sion­ary efforts from the rest of the com­mu­nity, re­duce some racism in the com­mu­nity, which in turn in­creases op­por­tu­nity for other peo­ple of color in a vir­tu­ous cir­cle.

● Men­tor peo­ple from un­der­rep­re­sented groups. Or if you be­long to an un­der­rep­re­sented group, seek out men­tors.

● Take an in­ter­est in peo­ple. You will at times, of­ten even, have to judge when some­one isn’t go­ing to be so in­volved in the move­ment that it’s worth your time to con­tinue en­gag­ing, but give peo­ple a chance, and try to be mind­ful of your in­tu­itions, some of which will be more valid and use­ful than oth­ers and some of which will be plain bi­ased — try to be con­scien­tious in that judge­ment and fo­cus on con­crete mea­sures of a per­son’s like­li­hood to en­gage well enough that they’ll learn to do good bet­ter.

Fi­nally: Take re­spon­si­bil­ity for im­prov­ing di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion in EA. What­ever your role in the com­mu­nity and move­ment and how­ever in­clu­sive your ac­tions tend to be already, there is more you can do, and say­ing it’s some­one else’s prob­lem to solve will only re­sult in a col­lec­tive ac­tion prob­lem..

Other notes

See also Kel­sey Piper’s notes on failure modes in efforts to in­crease de­mo­graphic di­ver­sity, Ju­lia Wise’s post on spe­cific ac­tions peo­ple can take to be more wel­com­ing at events, and Owen Cot­ton-Bar­rett’s post on be­ing wel­com­ing.

I should note that I put vastly more time and effort into work­ing with peo­ple out­side of EA to de­velop their think­ing on effec­tive­ness in­de­pen­dently of the EA com­mu­nity than I do bring­ing new peo­ple into the com­mu­nity, which frankly I only do when they’ve ex­plic­itly ex­pressed in­ter­est. This is be­cause I usu­ally ex­pect in­tro­duc­ing them to the com­mu­nity to waste their time, cause them stress, cost some of my re­la­tion­ship with them be­cause of that, and most im­por­tantly, turn them off from think­ing about effec­tive­ness. In fact, I think we back­fire of­ten just be­cause we pre­sent our­selves so sub­op­ti­mally.

The time I have spent on EA com­mu­nity-build­ing, which has been sub­stan­tial, has fo­cused on sup­port­ing in­di­vi­d­u­als who are already in the com­mu­nity, for the most part in the wing that in­ter­sects with the an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy com­mu­nity. I should note, brusque though this com­ment may be, that the an­i­mal-ad­vo­cacy-fo­cused sub-com­mu­nity of EA tends to be sig­nifi­cantly more so­cially com­pe­tent, wel­com­ing, and profi­cient in the kinds of in­clu­sion­ary prac­tices I’ve sug­gested here than some other parts of the com­mu­nity. This may be largely ex­plained by how women-dom­i­nated the an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy com­mu­nity is — though heav­ily white and guilty of other failings — and how its mem­bers are gen­er­ally much bet­ter versed in is­sues of dis­crim­i­na­tion and in­clu­sion than EAs are. An­i­mal ad­vo­cates, par­tic­u­larly in the farmed an­i­mal wing, tend to be highly liberal and gen­er­ally ac­tively en­courage con­cern for broad so­cial jus­tice — which stands in stark con­trast to the many peo­ple in the EA com­mu­nity who use straw­mans and the worst of the so­cial jus­tice com­mu­nity to dis­miss, in­sult, and oth­er­wise ac­tively dis­cour­age any as­so­ci­a­tion with the term, to the point of tak­ing pride in that op­po­si­tion.

I should also note that most other women, white and of color, who have been in the com­mu­nity for sev­eral years and who I have spo­ken with about di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion is­sues, are ex­hausted from talk­ing about and even think­ing about this prob­lem for so long and to so lit­tle avail. True, the vast ma­jor­ity of that con­ver­sa­tion has been in pri­vate or oth­er­wise se­questered dis­cus­sions, and mostly among peo­ple who agree there’s a prob­lem and aren’t con­tribut­ing to it as much as oth­ers, whether by act or omis­sion. That’s why I’m putting all of these thoughts on­line. Re­gard­less, peo­ple from more rep­re­sented back­grounds and who are oth­er­wise in more in­fluen­tial po­si­tions need to take up this man­tle.

Also FYI, I am cur­rently read­ing and tak­ing notes on What Works: Gen­der Equal­ity by De­sign and in­tend to share its in­sights — even if they’re po­ten­tially some­what cherry-picked and oth­er­wise weaker ev­i­dence than we’d like, as pop sci­ence books of­ten are — hope­fully within the next month or so.

Thank you Jen­nifer Fear­ing for the hand­ful of sug­ges­tions I took from your ad­vice to an­i­mal ad­vo­cates on how to pro­mote gen­der in­clu­sion in an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy lead­er­ship.