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Anon659

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This post resonated with me, and I am very glad it was posted. I find it really disheartening that the last two posts on women's experiences in EA have got sidetracked in the comments- this one has gotten sidetracked by discussion about Kathy Forth, and the last one got sidetracked by discussion about polyamory. Neither discussions have seemed to end up in suggestions that are going to be helpful to women. In my opinion, that would be a constructive outcome.

Importantly: I believe it would be incredibly valuable for EA to be seen as a place that is welcoming to women. I think EA is missing out on a huge pool of talent here, and on a huge pool of potential funders! I think people underestimate (1) the degree to which women are put off of EA via bad vibes on the internet (e.g. by scanning the comments on posts like these, and not seeing constructive suggestions to improve women's experiences), and (2) the huge loss it is for EA to fail to attract more women. Are you funding constrained or talent constrained? Women have talent and money, and we're (slightly) >50% of the population! I think that 'bad vibes' push a significant fraction of women  away. In addition, I think it contributes to bad PR for EA in general.

I note that i don't think it's a good plan to rely on surveys of EA women (or anecdotes of 'I am an EA woman and I haven't had an issue'), because.... most women who sense 'bad vibes' in EA communities are not going to stick around to answer a survey. It's an incredibly biased sample.

Things I would like to see (it's possible that this is around somewhere and I haven't found it). I focus mainly on the general issue of 'how women are perceived and recruited in EA' (rather than allegations of sexual assault), because I think is a really neglected issue:

  1. Data to assess the extent of the problem (bearing in mind that we already have the somewhat alarming stat that only around 30% of EA are women):
  • what proportion of senior positions at top EA orgs are occupied by men versus  women? I suspect (but I could be wrong) that most of the positions are held by men.
  • what proportion of talks at EAG are given by men versus women? Do less people attend the talks that are given by a woman or a man, and are people more or less likely to attend a 1 on 1 with a man or woman?
  •  do male sounding names get more karma/ upvotes/ comments on the EA forum?
  • where do women 'drop out' on the EA pipeline? I'm assuming its initial recruitment, but idk. I think working this out is crucial towards increasing the number of women (and therefore to improving women's experience more broadly- I believe this would likely flow naturally from achieving a more balanced gender ratio).

 

           2. Some potential actions to make EA more welcoming to women:

  • more women in top, leadership positions (and increasing the visibility of these women). I think this has huge benefit- it will make EA more welcoming to women in general, and I suspect that having broader viewpoints in general will also benefit EA.
  •  If the data suggests that women's work/ posts/ talks achieve less social influence than men's (this is my suspicion)- highlight women's work so it doesn't get drowned out
  • doing best to achieve reasonable gender ratio in people giving talks at conferences, i assume this is done already though?
  • potentially employing someone (with experience at a major org that is not EA) as an expert on this, this is hardly a problem that is unique to EA. They may have the fresh takes/ outside opinion which would be helpful to EA .

This might be where I disagree with others, but I do not think that EA topics are inherently less attractive to women (compared to men), or that women are somehow inherently less skilled at pursuing EA topics. Instead, I am concerned that there is a real lack of deep and critical thought about why women get put off EA; i think the community is missing out on a huge untapped benefit here. I hope that we can apply the data-driven/ research and analytical skills (what attracted me to EA in the first place)  towards this issue.

(I also want to explicitly note that I think the work done by the community health team is excellent, and this post is not intended as a criticism to them. In addition, note that many of the points that I make here also apply to other communities that are under-represented in EA, even if I have focused upon women here).