UK Finance, Microsoft and EY publish report on language in tech

UK Finance has launched a joint report with Microsoft and EY into making the language used in the technology and cyber security sectors more inclusive.

The report highlights what changes should be made to the language used in legacy application systems and coding to help drive positive action and remove any language that portrays people in an unnecessarily negative light.

The issues relating to language used in these areas is one that has previously been highlighted by the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).

The report compiled through research, industry insights and discussions with UK Finance members, highlights contentious terms that have become synonymous with race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, accessibility, criminality.

It explores what impact these terms have on society, the financial services industry and individuals, including how non-inclusive terms have created a barrier to recruitment.

The report suggests alternatives to replace a number of commonly-used terms. For example, language aligned to race or ethnicity, such as “black market” and “white-list” could be changed to “illegal market” or “allow list” respectively.

In addition, terms such as “sanity check” may infer a level of disability bias or discrimination and could be changed to “sense check” or “confidence check”.

With organisations currently at different stages of implementing their approaches to diversity and inclusion (D&I), the report aims to highlight key areas regarding language and provides the following 12-step guide on what firms can do to help drive sustainable change.

Step 1: Review current language used in technology and cyber
Step 2: Identify non inclusive language
Step 3: Secure technology and cyber leadership support
Step 4: Engage central D&I or HR team
Step 5: Agree a set of alternative words to replace the non-inclusive language
Step 6: Business Leadership sponsor
Step 7: Consider cultural alignment
Step 8 Engage employees to help shape response
Step 9: Approval of alternative words
Step 10: Communication strategy
Step 11: Instigate changes, update policy documents
Step 12: Assign maintenance responsibility

Sarah Armstrong-Smith, chief security advisor of Microsoft, said:“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. In partnership with UK Finance and EY, the insights offered through this report will foster a more diverse and thriving financial sector as organisations consider their approaches to D&I and welcome in additional changes of benefit to wider society.”

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