Words Matter – Language in IT

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In 2020, as part of Emb(race), the IBM Academy of Technology (AoT) launched the Words Matter initiative. The goal was to modernize IT terminology by removing racially and culturally offensive language from our products and content.

Volunteers from across IBM with diverse racial, cultural and geographical backgrounds as well as diverse skills and experience worked together in support of our pledge to embrace diversity and combat racism.

The Mission

Our goal is to promote the use of inclusive language in IT and provide opportunities for IBM employees to work together. This initiative covers code used in software and hardware and associated documentation, manuals, support guides, digital content describing IT products, hardware labels, and education. We have restricted our initial work to cover only terms used in IT and not general business terms.

The Approach

  • Create initial set of racially or culturally biased IT terms with guidance for replacements
  • Establish governance processes to confirm removal of biased terms from IBM products and content
  • Incorporate terminology guidance in the Business Conduct Guidelines for 2022
  • Create and communicate guidelines for business partners and suppliers
  • Acrolinx can be used on content to flag prohibited and use with caution terms

The Value

  • A scalable system – including model, process, and tools – to help identify and remove racially or culturally biased IT terms from IBM’s products and content
  • Provides heightened awareness for the value and need of inclusive language in IT both inside and outside of IBM organization
  • Thought leadership opportunity

Thought Leadership

  • IBM is a founding member and leader of the IT industry’s Inclusive Naming Initiative with Red Hat, VMware, Cisco, and the Linux Foundation (goal is to collaborate across the IT industry to replace harmful and unclear language with neutral terms)
  • IBM contributes guidance to the Inclusive Naming Initiative and the open source community


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