By Jared Karol
For the first time in its history, Reddit has a diverse executive team. This is plain to see in the Reddit panel discussion at last year’s San Francisco Tech Inclusion Conference, moderated by Wayne Sutton from Change Catalyst. What’s even more impressive is the way this team articulates its vision for diversity and inclusion. It’s clear the new executive team is aware of the previous challenges in this area and they’re working on solutions to make Reddit an inclusive community for employees and its nearly 250 million users.
CEO Steve Huffman sums it up well: “We want Reddit to be as welcoming and broad as possible. So, if we want our platform to be as diverse as possible, we need our company to be as diverse as possible as well.” The company takes this approach because it’s the right thing to do, and because it makes good business sense.
Reddit is putting its words into action. They are about to grow very quickly — potentially doubling its 140 employees this year. Nick Caldwell, VP of Engineering — and one of the very few black men in engineering leads in a company of Reddit’s size — recognizes the importance of embedding the idea of diversity and inclusion into the DNA of the company while it’s still small. As the company grows, he says, the diversity will grow too.
How? Nick says It really comes down to just putting the effort in. He is making sure that a significant portion of the engineering managers he hires are from diverse backgrounds. This will have a cumulative effect because diverse people will work their networks and bring more diverse people into the company.
Katelin Holloway, VP of People and Culture, says Reddit is only at the beginning of the journey. She and her team are thinking of solutions that holistically support the entire employee experience — beyond just recruiting. There is an educational component, a focus on retention by creating a deep sense of belonging, and development initiatives such as bias-free performance review systems and being mindful of the language used in conversations. Holloway says, “To Keep people thriving you have to address it from the whole scope.”
Speaking about the Reddit platform from the perspective of an African-American woman, Melissa Tidwell, General counsel in charge of legal policy and comms, acknowledges that Reddit has a certain perception challenge. But, she insists, there are plenty of inspiring stories that illustrate a real sense of belonging. One example is a Syrian woman talking about the war and also about being gay, trying to figure out what she should do, considering suicide, and getting advice and support from strangers all around the world.
This story resonates with Zubair Jandali, head of Advertising Sales, who is ethnically Syrian. His path to entrepreneurism began when he reached out to his friend who was the first Syrian-American to be funded by Sequoia Capital. “You’re like Jackie Robinson,” he remembers thinking at the time. His friend gave him an opportunity to not only begin his career with the company, but a deep sense of safety and comfort once he was there.
It is this commitment to creating a sense of belonging — internally and on the platform — that will guide Reddit through their next phase of growth and beyond. That said, diversity remains an existential challenge. As Jandali says, “I have a lot of blind spots. We all bring some sort of privilege. The only way that I’m going to learn what I’m not seeing is by continuing to be open to people who are going to challenge my fundamental assumptions.”
With the world watching, the Reddit executive team is looking to return to tech inclusion 2017 to show their progress.
Watch the full panel discussion below.
See more videos from Change Catalyst and Tech Inclusion here.
About Change Catalyst:
Change Catalyst empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation — through education, community engagement and mentorship.
Our Tech Inclusion programs explore and develop innovative solutions to tech diversity and inclusion.
Our Startup Ecosystem programs help underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors to start, scale and fund worldchanging businesses.
Change Catalyst is a Certified B Corp, winning the “Best for the World” award for community impact in 2014 and “Best in the World” overall in 2015.