UK Finance, EY and Microsoft launch joint report on language in technology and cybersecurity

UK Finance, EY and Microsoft today release a joint report setting out how the financial sector can work together to remove non-inclusive language commonly found within the technology and cybersecurity sectors. 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). 

Through dedicated research, industry insights and discussions with UK Finance members, the report 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 and left staff isolated.

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), today's report identifies key focus areas regarding language and provides a 12-step guide on what firms can do to help drive sustainable change.

David Postings, Chief Executive of UK Finance, said: 

Non-inclusive language can alienate and create an unfair and unequal society.

?With thanks to our members, EY and Microsoft, we hope that this report offers firms insight into how making changes to language used in technology and cybersecurity will drive positive action to the benefit of wider society.

Nina Driscoll, Director at EY, said: 

Using inclusive language is vital to cultivating the right sort of behaviours and, ultimately, achieving the best outcomes. We hope this report shows firms across the technology and cybersecurity space just how important it is to use language which makes everyone feel comfortable. Taking a bit of time now to consider the best terminologies to use will be of huge benefit in the future.

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.

Please find the report's 12-step guide for financial services organisations below which is recommended as key to driving 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

Contact Information

UK Finance Press Office
020 7416 6750

Notes to editor

<ol><li>The ?Use of non-inclusive language in technology and cybersecurity and why it matters? report by UK Finance, EY and Microsoft is available <a href="… />
<li>UK Finance is the collective voice for the banking and finance industry. Representing almost 300 firms across the industry, we act to enhance competitiveness, support customers and facilitate innovation.<br />
<li>EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services EY delivers help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. EY develops outstanding leaders who team to deliver on promises to all of its stakeholders. In so doing, EY plays a critical role in building a better working world for its people, clients and communities. EY refers to the global organisation and may refer to one or more of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organisation, please visit</li>
</ol><ol start="4"><li>Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.</li>