The product team is committed to providing a welcoming and safe environment for people of all races, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientations, physical abilities, physical appearances, socioeconomic backgrounds, life experiences, nationalities, ages, religions, and beliefs. Discrimination and harassment are expressly prohibited in our employee handbook. Harassment may include, but is not limited to, intimidation; stalking; unwanted recording or photography; inappropriate physical contact; use of sexual or discriminatory imagery, comments, or jokes; intentional or repeated misgendering; sexist, racist, ableist, or otherwise discriminatory or derogatory language; and unwelcome sexual attention.
In order to provide such an environment, we commit to being considerate in our language use. Any behavior or language which is unwelcoming—whether or not it rises to the level of harassment—is also strongly discouraged.
Much exclusionary behavior takes the form of microaggressions—subtle put-downs which may be unconsciously delivered. Regardless of intent, microaggressions can have a significant negative impact on victims and have no place on our team.
The same goes for tone policing, or responding negatively to the emotion behind a person’s message while ignoring its content (telling someone who is discussing an issue that makes them upset to “calm down” instead of responding to their concerns is an example of tone policing).
The language we use every day is frequently tied to a past of violence and imperialism; many of these assumptions are built into the technology we use (the internet itself began as a US military effort). Without thinking about their origins, we may use military ranks to refer to people, refer to a crisis evaluation as a “war room,” talk about a shocking event as a “bombshell,” and so on. In consideration of your colleagues’ life experiences and how they may be affected by such language, commit to finding neutral replacements for these words in your work, and finding ways to limit exposure to them via third-party sources. When reviewing these sources, review the terminology they use with the same care you would review their technical specifications.
There are a host of behaviors and language common on tech teams which are worth noting as specifically unwelcome: Avoid “well, actuallys”—pedantic corrections that are often insulting and unproductive; make an effort not to interrupt your colleagues while they are speaking; never respond with surprise when someone asks for help; and take care neither to patronize your colleagues nor assume complete knowledge of a topic. This last point is especially important when talking about technical topics: Many women and people of color in the tech industry have many tales of being either mansplained about a field in which they are experts, or else excluded from learning opportunities because a colleague wouldn’t make an effort to answer questions—don’t be that person. Remember that your colleagues may have expertise you are unaware of, and listen at least as much as you speak.