Are men more likely to attend EA London events? Attendance data, 2016-2018.


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Summary

Using EA London attendance data, David Nash and I found that women* are just as likely to attend one EA event as men. However, women are less likely to return to future EA events. Women and men are about equally likely to attend most learning-focused events, like talks and reading groups. Women are much less likely to attend socials and strategy meetings. I discuss our methodology and implications for EA communities.

Introduction

Over the past three years, diversity in EA has been a recurring theme on the EA Forum. Alex Gordon-Brown suggested four types of diversity: diversity of talent, experience, opinion, and appearance. He argues that although bonds built on visual attributes like race and gender are normally weaker than bonds based on shared experiences or opinions, they are still important because they’re built so quickly. If there are only a few women in a room full of men, we should expect them to be uncomfortable, even if no one has been unpleasant to them. 

Suggestions on improving diversity in Effective Altruism communities have been made here and here. Suggestions on how to have these conversations constructively, without tokenizing or minimizing the people already in our community, have been made here.

EA London’s events tend to attract more men than women; our typical monthly pub social would be 70% male and 30% female. Is this because women are less likely to attend EA London events for the first time, less likely to return, or both?

David Nash and I found that women are just as likely to attend one EA event as men, but are less likely to return to future EA events. Women and men are about equally likely to attend most learning-focused events, like talks and reading groups, but women are much less likely to attend socials and strategy meetings.

In this article, I describe our research methods and limitations; present the data EA London has collected; discuss implications for EA communities; and suggest next steps for EA gender research.

Methods and Limitations

David compiled attendance data from 5/6/2016 to 8/3/2018. He used a software program to code names as likely male or female; he then corrected some of the entries manually.

It’s possible that we’ve misgendered some attendees, especially if they only attended one or two events. Because we’re using aggregate data about hundreds of people I’m not particularly worried—I think the general trend is still useful.

Obviously, it’s impossible to know if the trends we find in London apply anywhere else. I’m sharing them here as a starting point for research in other communities and discussion about gender in EA spaces.

Data

Below, we have attendance data by gender for all attendees between June 5th 2016 and March 8th 2018. The column to the left shows how many events a given individual has attended; for example, there are 94 men and 37 women who have attended four or more events in the last two years. As a percentage, 28.24% of people who attended four or more EA London events since June 5th 2016 are women.

 

# of events

Female Percentage

Male #

Female #

Just 1 event

50.40%

473

481

1+ event

46.88%

681

601

2+ event

36.59%

208

120

3+

33.88%

121

62

4+

28.24%

94

37

5+

28.26%

66

26

6+

25%

54

18

7+

21.43%

44

12

8+

21.28%

37

10

9+

23.08%

30

9

10+

22.86%

27

8

11+

21.88%

25

7

12+

23.08%

20

6

13+

25%

18

6

14+

23.81%

16

5

20+

26.67%

11

4

 

 This table represents the same data in a different way, showing how women are much less likely than men to have attended more than seven EA London events in the last two years.

 

Over the past two years, how many attendees have been to exactly…?

 

% Female

Male

Female

1 event

50.40%

473

481

2-3 events

42.13%

114

83

4-6 events

33.33%

50

25

7-19 events

19.51%

33

8

20+ events

26.67%

11

4

 

This table compares attendance at EA London social events (particularly our monthly pub socials) to all other events we host (including talks, reading groups, and career-specific networking events). This data shows that women are much less likely than men to attend socials, but about as likely to attend non-social events.

 


Year

Attendance

Female

Percentage

Total

2016

732

372

51%

2017

1743

689

40%

2018

424

177

42%

         

Social

2016

240

97

40%

2017

812

270

33%

2018

208

71

34%

         

Non Social

2016

492

275

56%

2017

931

419

45%

2018

216

106

49%

Attendance data by event type (not pictured) shows that EA London strategy meetings and monthly pub socials are much more likely to be attended by men than women.

Implications for EA Communities

In London, women are as likely as men to attend an EA event for the first time. Marketing events differently to attract more women seems unnecessary. We don’t have a problem attracting women; we are just less likely to retain them.

EA London events aimed at newcomers tend to be gender balanced, while socials and strategy meetings are heavily male. This makes sense: we’d expect newcomer events to be gender-balanced because 47% of attendees at EA London events are female and 50% of attendees who only attend one event are female. Given that ¾ of regular attendees are male, we’d expect strategy meetings to be male-dominated. It’s more surprising that the monthly pub social was so heavily male, given that it was advertised to newcomers. However, a group of men who are quite involved in EA London regularly attend the monthly pub socials, which may explain why they skew male.

It’s not obvious why women are less likely to return to EA London events. I’m currently doing some qualitative research to investigate what motivates men and women to attend EA London events. I plan to publish it within the next month.

Next Steps

EA London attracts a near-equal number of men and women to its events, but men are more likely to return to future events. We don’t yet know why this happens, but it skews socials and strategy meetings male.

It could be useful for other communities to track their attendance and see if they find similar results. A series of interviews with women from different EA communities who have stopped attending events would also be helpful.

*We made rather simplistic assumptions for this research, based on people’s names and gender presentation. I recognize that not everyone feels comfortable with this binary. Nevertheless, I hope that this research will be a step toward making EA London more welcoming to a wider range of people.