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Submitted By: Jenni Muñoz & Sofia Martinez 

One of the most impactful ways that we can create a welcoming environment is through our words. In every space that we enter, we have the opportunity to use language that makes everyone around us feel comfortable and safe. As we gain a better understanding of terminology that may be considered offensive to certain groups, it becomes our responsibility to actively avoid those terms. There may be times when we slip up, or are simply unaware that we said something harmful, but what matters is that we take accountability for our words, learn from our mistakes, and try our best moving forward.

Whether we are in a classroom or in an office, the ability to be our full selves directly correlates with our confidence and our success in that space. When we engage in conversations with our peers and we are not mindful of our language, we may be creating anxiety or discomfort for those around us, and they will not feel like they can be their authentic selves. Feelings of not belonging, or “imposter syndrome,” can be heightened by the usage of non-inclusive language. In order to foster growth and innovation in the cybersecurity industry, we must create environments where everyone can feel safe and comfortable. 

Integrating inclusive language into our daily interactions is a conscious effort that requires self-awareness and reflection. We might not realize that common phrases are exclusive until we learn their history or consider how they affect different groups of people. To assist the members of our community, the WiCyS Equity Advocacy Committee created a list of commonly used terms that are non-inclusive and provided alternative language suggestions. Many cybersecurity teams are putting together similar lists to drive change across the industry, a move that is increasingly important as folks from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and identities enter the cybersecurity workforce. We encourage all WiCyS members to advocate for inclusive language in their communities and at work—leading by example is the best way to start. 

Other references on this topic:

https://www.wicys.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Inclusive-Language-2.pdf

https://www.dca.org.au/sites/default/files/dca_wordsatwork_overall_guide.pdf

https://www.kibin.com/essay-writing-blog/what-is-inclusive-language/

https://medium.com/@nehajain_67217/lets-be-real-inclusive-language-matters-206a40f74c38

https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/blog/human-capital-blog/2021/inclusive-workplace-language.html

https://writingcooperative.com/why-inclusive-language-is-so-important-b6b935f75cf9