The use of language in tech and cyber - and why it matters

Language bridges the gap between people and can help to create common understanding and a feeling of belonging. Conversely, when used negatively, language can also create and reinforce barriers and feelings of alienation.

In the technology and cybersecurity space, negative and often prejudiced connotations have slipped into daily use. In the midst of the social awakening that the world is witnessing, one can say that the language we use in technology and cyber is outdated and not a reflection of our society today.

UK Finance, in partnership with Microsoft and EY, explored the use of language in technology and cyber within the financial services sector. In our technical paper we considered the impact of language on individuals as well as organisations, what the financial sector is doing to review non- inclusive language within tech and cyber and what more can be done.

One of the key success criteria lies in how we shape the conversation, ensuring that we are focused on learning rather than shaming, and recognising that everyone can fall prey to demonstrating non-inclusive behaviour. Paul Vincent, IT Cyber Security Director at Lloyds, has coined what he describes as the ?3 principles of respect?, which it is important to consider:

  • Think before you speak: Think about how your words count. How will they be perceived by those you are speaking to or other observing?
  • Do not be quick to assume malice: If someone says something you feel offended by, do not be quick to assume they intended it to be hurtful. Feel empowered to call out offensive terms/phrases, but do so in a kind, considerate and empathetic way.
  • Be quick to apologise: It doesn't matter who was in the right or wrong, be quick to apologise if you have upset someone by something that was said.  

Another success criteria lie in building the strategy and plan for effective change. This can ensure that a positive culture is driven from the top, engaging employees in the conversation, building technical changes to systems and products, as well as encouraging systematic continuous improvement.

Following the release of the technical paper, UK Finance held a panel focused webinar, an opportunity for the sector to reflect on status quo, and what more can be done. An on demand record of the webinar can be accessed here. Please note that you may need to register to access the recording.

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