In the software industry, for years we have thoughtlessly used terminology such as “master and slave” and “whitelist and blacklist” to define processes and classify data. Some might say that these terms have no significance since they aren’t describing people, and hence there is no racist intent.
But language has a huge impact on values and cultural norms. Language expresses and reinforces culture. Language encourages us to develop behavioral habits and patterns of thinking that shape our experience.
As part of our commitment to social justice and equality, we acknowledge and take action toward offensive and insensitive language used in the software industry. Unconscious bias, such as using certain terminology, contributes to everyday discrimination and indignities and leads to negative emotions and psychological stress for Black people and other people of color. Therefore, we have decided to replace insensitive terms with inclusive language that is free from expressions or words that reflect prejudice.
It was important for us to take a holistic approach to this project. The new terminology we are introducing today is not an exercise in word-for-word replacements, but rather a thoughtful discussion based on research and best practices at SAP and across the industry. We looked carefully at the use of the terms in English and German across our entire product portfolio, as sensitive and mindful terminology does not always transfer. Moving forward, thanks to a true cross-company effort, we will not only have a technically accurate nomenclature, but terminology that is inclusive and descriptive.
The new terms — with guidance from SAP terminology experts, as well as applicable references in German — are available now on the SAP Help Portal.
Addressing insensitive language is only one aspect of inclusion. We must all understand the important role each of us plays in fighting discrimination, including taking a stand against racism to drive change inside and outside of our organizations.
Together we can ensure that equality becomes a reality.
Juergen Mueller is chief technology officer and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, leading the Technology and Innovation board area.
Thomas Saueressig is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, leading the SAP Product Engineering board area.