Gandhi once said:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
I’m a big believer that our thoughts control our destinies. If you look at life and the professional world in these terms, you suddenly become aware of all the little things that shape you and those around you.
I’ve prided myself in my career for choosing my words and language in an inclusive way. When I was directing human resources a pet peeve of mine was hearing the executive team describe future hires (especially for leadership or technology positions) in this way ALL the time: “When we hire him, he will do XYZ” or “When we hire a CTO, he will get the team trained on XYZ”… I drove the (all-male) executive team crazy by constantly and consistently correcting them, asking them to start using she instead of he all the time. I certainly wanted more women in these roles and the executives said they did too, but like most of us, they were just used to using he/man/guy all the time. But we needed to change – our thoughts become our destiny and we wanted our destiny to have more women in our technology and leadership roles. By the time I left the company, I had the executive team thinking twice when describing a generic person or role… they were saying she as much as they were saying he!
Fast forward to our Scrum Training at IU. A room full of women (well, except for Chris) from varying levels of education and professional experience, undergrads, graduates, PhD candidates. Inclusive language was the last thing on my mind because I thought I had it covered. I was wrong. I found myself referencing the group over and over as “you guys” and “hey guys!”. I noticed several of our analogies and photos in the training referenced all-male sports teams but didn’t show women. One student even commented “Hey! Women play Rugby too you know!”
As a woman in an industry dominated by men and a passion for introducing underrepresented individuals to the technology profession, I learned at our last training that just being aware of the importance of inclusive language isn’t enough. If we want to be more inclusive our words must consistently reflect that. Our words become our destiny after all.
Thanks for a great session, women of IU!