Jargon overload: How to watch your language in the workplace
We’re the first to agree that the world of IT and technology is very guilty of a lack of ‘plain English’. As an industry, we are buzzword and acronym heavy which often makes people feel as though IT is a topic they simply can’t access.
Microsoft have taken this a step further, however, with a welcome foray into some of the legacy terms and phrases used across the industry. Their report, jointly authored with UK Finance and EY, is focusing on diversity and inclusion and weeding out phrasing that could have negative connotations.
We don’t always think about what we are saying when we refer to ‘back markets’, ‘white lists’ or ‘sanity checks’ but each of these phrases could be seen to be non-inclusive. Anything that has become synonymous with race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is to be reconsidered.
Digitisation is our future so it makes complete sense to us that the language is brought up to date and, although this initiative is focused on the financial sector, it’s a good start and something which other sectors can easily follow.
Technology and cyber security are important and relevant to everyone in today’s digital age so this initiative is important. Sarah Armstrong-Smith, Microsoft’s Chief Security Advisor, is quoted as saying “Being mindful of the language we use to foster greater inclusion in technology and cybersecurity is a positive step forward. At Microsoft we believe in the power of engaging diverse perspectives.”
Why is change needed
Diversity and inclusion has been firmly on the corporate agenda for around a decade now but may perhaps have been deemed to be ‘owned’ by HR teams. However, every departmental leader can make decisions and take actions to improve D&I. Technology is an area that all businesses are becoming more and more reliant on and so it is critical to address it here in order to set a positive course for change.
Unfair treatment in the workplace is one of the largest drivers of employee churn in the technology industry and can cost companies up to £4bn per year.
There’s also a strong, more general business case for focusing on this issue, with businesses in the top quartile for gender diversity being 25% more likely to have above-average profitability
There are resources available to help businesses drive sustainable change in terms of diversity and inclusion. A Microsoft Writing Style Guide is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to make positive change accessible to anyone and there’s also an inclusive language feature in Microsoft Editor which can scan content for biased or offensive terms.
Like all cultural and legacy issues, diversity and inclusion is a huge topic but this shouldn’t stop us from making whatever small contribution we can to effect large-scale change. Hopefully, this article has highlighted some of the common issues and escalated actions on your to-do list.