Our Words Matter


In the tech industry, the term slave and master are commonly used, however, would you use those terms loudly at a restaurant?  The analogy may work, but the words used are outdated and offensive. Each of the 16,000+ words we use per day have an equal opportunity to impact people and situations.  The words that we use as technologists (and as members of society), have an effect on climate, culture, and productivity and the impact of those words may be visible, disguised or have a snowball effect.  Something as simple as a word choice can strengthen connections, communicate accurately, or unknowingly cause harm to those around us. We must acknowledge the potential power and impact words have. This presentation highlights the power of words through concrete examples of words that we use everyday, how they unknowingly influence others, and offers suggestions to become aware of their weight.


In 1904 astronomer David Gill built a clock for the Cape Town observatory.  This clock consisted of two instruments, a pendulum in a controlled environment and a secondary clock that was periodically updated by the pendulum. Gill referred to this secondary clock as a “slave clock”.  While there was no malicious intent by Gill, this is an example of how words that are chosen to describe concepts can have long lasting impacts.  The same is true in technology today.  We need to become more cognizant of words that we choose and how they can encourage or harm others (regardless of our intention.) During this talk we will cover the following concepts  

Participants will leave this session with a better understanding, awareness, and concrete examples of how our words affect others and will have steps to take to improve our culture in the workplace, create a welcoming environment and some soft skills needed for daily living.