VMware's Inclusive Terminology Journey

Dec 7, 2021 8:50 AM ET
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VMware has undertaken the multifaceted task of correcting non-inclusive terminology used in our products and company collateral. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” As with any societal issue, the journey toward inclusive terminology can’t happen overnight. Rather, it will be an ongoing effort to identify and replace terms and vocabulary choices that appear in our content and products. This journey requires changes in our mindset, awareness and understanding.

The Beginning of the Journey

About a year ago, VMware formed an internal, cross-discipline team to develop and drive processes for addressing the use of non-inclusive terminology companywide. The team engaged with employees across the world, collaborating closely with VMware’s Power of Difference (POD) communities—our version of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

We partnered with technology companies spearheading their own inclusive terminology efforts and leveraged technical libraries for guidance on the depth and context of terms usage in technical literature and research papers. The team researched and consulted with trusted advisors to validate that its decisions aligned with industry thought leadership on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and VMware’s EPIC2 values. Throughout this process, the team learned a lot about the origins and deep-rooted history of terms and the power of words.

How We're Continuing Our Efforts

VMware expanded this effort by actively participating in industry initiatives like the Inclusive Naming Initiative and contributes to the InterNation Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) Inclusive Terminology ad hoc standards development community. These groups are responsible for establishing inclusive terminology baselines and revisions to style guides across corporations, academia and standards organizations. VMware leverages the findings of these industry and standards groups to validate that our internal initiatives are in alignment with industry best practices.

From the start of the Inclusive Terminology initiative, VMware employees have actively submitted terms that they felt were racist, genderist, discriminatory or non-inclusive. This enabled us to expand the lens of the initiative beyond root terms such as “master/slave” and “whitelist/blacklist.” In parallel, VMware continues its efforts to ensure that our products are accessible.

To assist with term discovery and remediation, VMware has developed a content scanner and browser highlighting tools which we plan to open source in the future.

The Continuing Path

While working on this effort, I frequently remember the words of late Congressman John Lewis, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something. Never be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

VMware’s leadership, product managers, marketing, content creators and engineering teams all have stepped up to drive this ongoing effort across the company. And VMware’s path towards raising awareness and using inclusive terminology continues.

Learn more about VMinclusion, our diversity, equity and inclusion initiative.

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