Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF

"STARK, BARBARA H" <bs7652@att.com> Thu, 25 February 2021 17:59 UTC

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From: "STARK, BARBARA H" <bs7652@att.com>
To: "'Andrew Campling'" <andrew.campling@419.consulting>
CC: "'GENDISPATCH List'" <gendispatch@ietf.org>
Thread-Topic: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF
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Archived-At: <https://mailarchive.ietf.org/arch/msg/gendispatch/1RRNMlN4K6RCJ5uasqn6Y0MsKwA>
Subject: Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF
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> > The word "coder" is a somewhat insulting way to refer to software developers. Please stop. This vocabulary implies a hierarchy in which the specifications are developed by superior specification writers, then handed down to subservient "coders" who merely translate it into computer code. This is a very reductive way of considering software development. For example, it completely discards the interaction between implementation, deployment, testing, and user feedback. In the IETF, the writing of good specifications has always benefited from such interactions, and we want that to continue.

> In previous discussions on this list, others highlighted the importance of assuming the good intentions of contributors and also of making allowances for possible differences in meaning between languages and cultures.  I think that the above text inadvertently demonstrates the problems that can otherwise arise. (For the record, I started my working life as a professional programmer, am a native UK English speaker and do not see any reason to be offended by the use of the term ”coder”, noting that it might be regarded by some as a little idiosyncratic in this context but nothing more).  

<bhs> I'll add to this and say that I volunteer regularly with a non-profit called "Girls Who Code". Nobody associated with this org sees anything pejorative about saying someone can "code".</bhs>

> I’d be concerned that someone who is not confident in their use of English could easily be discouraged from further contributions upon receiving such a negative response to a pretty innocuous use of language, or even in observing such a reaction to another person’s post.  If diversity is to be encouraged then a more forgiving approach is needed, especially from those in or having previously occupied leadership positions.

> Separately, I hope that the proposed activity on terminology does not become a dumping group for the preferences and dislikes of individuals, otherwise we will quickly discover that some of us are easily offended.  Let’s instead focus on providing positive guidance on good choices of terminology, ensuring that any examples of words or phrases to be discouraged is kept as small as possible, with robust references to justify inclusion.  In addition, I’d encourage checks to ensure that any such list has input from as diverse a spread of nationalities and cultures as possible - a document that primarily focuses on the feelings of one cultural group or nationality is likely to reinforce views that the IETF is not a diverse organisation.

<bhs> I mostly agree. Both this discussion and previous (on the ietf list many months ago) opinion that the words "folks" and "y'all" are offensive to some people suggest that it's important to be able to reference multiple sources that show a real problem with a term. It's not enough for a single person to claim offense. The main problem that I, personally, see driving a need for the TERM WG is that many companies (mostly from one region) have told their employees not to use certain terms in any document or code they are associated with. Given the momentum of this movement and speed at which it is spreading to many of the companies employing IETF participants, if IETF does not address the problem ASAP, this could make it difficult for employees of these companies to actively participate. This will primarily impact a specific region/country and people employed by large companies in that region and would be independent of the race, culture, or gender of the participants. Which suggests 2 points:
=> The first problem TERM (and IETF) is tackling will ensure people employed by numerous large US companies can continue to fully participate in IETF. It may or may not have any impact on removing possible barriers to certain people based on race, gender, or culture; anyone who thinks it will have no impact on these barriers is welcome to ignore that as a reason and focus on the potential impact to participation by employees of large US companies.
=> Even if the problem with use of a specific term is limited to a single region/country...  if the problem is sufficiently widespread in that one country and could impact the ability of people from that country to participate in IETF, it should still be fair game.

Barbara </bhs>