Reddit executive Katelin Holloway speaks at CU about diversity

Reddit executive Katelin Holloway spoke at CU Boulder Tuesday, launching “Be Woke,” a series of on-campus talks addressing diversity in corporate America.

According Holloway, the Vice President of People and Culture for Reddit, the demographic makeup of most companies is one of the underlying reasons they struggle with cultural diversity issues. It results in an inability to connect with audiences and attract people to their services, Holloway said.

“You can be whoever you want to be on Reddit,” Holloway said. This was a point she emphasized in the discussion, feeding into the idea that many subcultures, namely within Reddit, are underrepresented and therefore discouraged by the lack of cultural diversity.

While this issue is prevalent in many companies in addition to Reddit, Holloway used her company’s past as an example. She recalled that their employee demographics used to demonstrate a lack of a cultural diversity stemming from their hiring process. Reddit has since changed this, though. From being a company of 75 people in 2011, the initiative to expand their diversity has lead to hiring 180+ new employees in six years. This goal is all in the pursuit of trying to be inclusive to their users.

Holloway then began asking those around the room simple questions about Reddit, such as whether they know what Reddit is or if they use it. This lead to her asking for those that considered themselves “redditors” to raise their hands. After a small number of hands, namely from white males, shot up, Holloway made the remark of Reddit’s “core users, white men,” being no coincidence. Back in 2011 and even before when Reddit was first started, the majority of the staff were white males, which is why the site catered to such a group, and is what has spurred their movement to grow out of that stage.

Reddit has been struggling not to cater towards a specific user demographic. In April 2016, they launched an app to help combat this issue. The app’s interface is designed to be easier to navigate than their website, as part of the developer’s plan to attract users of all backgrounds.

The simpler interface of the app resulted in a direct increase of engaged users, Holloway said. Women now make up 47 percent  of Reddit users, a massive step-up from before it was launched.

Reddit’s app is just one way that the company is trying to better represent, understand and meet the needs of their users. According to Holloway, they are also seeking to hire more employees with similar interests and backgrounds to their users in order fulfill such a mission.

It is important that a company, such as Reddit, is made up of employees who share “common denominators of values” to users, said Holloway. This helps to create a safer, more fun community for users, and a more inclusive company identity. They want their cultural initiatives to make a more user friendly web and economy that represents all perspectives for the greater good.

As the “fourth largest website in the U.S. and sixth in the world,”  Holloway hopes Reddit is an example for others. Above all, she wants the company’s cultural initiatives to make a more user-friendly and inclusive web.

The “Be Woke” series will end with a hack-a-thon on Oct. 13.

Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Joel Ives at joel.ives@colorado.edu.

CU Independent

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