Prominent Organizations, Including Github and Apple, Are Dropping Exclusionary Developer Terminology
Catie Keck writing last month for Gizmodo:
Github, the Microsoft-owned developer platform, is working on implementing language that moves away from long-used “master” and “slave” terms, the programming language that refers to the dominant relationship between processes. Google Chrome developer Una Kravets on Friday tweeted support for switching to more inclusive terms like “main,” specifically requesting Github lead the effort “by implementing in their product moving forward.”
At Apple, we’re working to remove and replace non-inclusive language across our developer ecosystem, including within Xcode, platform APIs, documentation, and open source projects. These changes began on June 22 with the beta software and developer documentation released at WWDC20 moving to terms such as allow list and deny list, and main as the default SCM branch in Xcode 12. An updated Apple Style Guide reflects these and other changes.
Changes like these are incremental compared to the much harder work of undoing the broad effects of discrimination, but they are positive changes nevertheless. It may seem like little more than subtle language adjustments — and, to some, that is all they will be — but language matters.
Of course, the lack of representation of black Americans at Github and Apple, particularly in technical roles, matters far more. Both report that around 6% of technical positions are filled by black employees; at Apple, that’s actually down by about two percentage points compared to just a few years ago. Both companies have greater representation of black employees than the U.S. national average for “information” roles (see table nine) but black Americans are still disproportionately poorly represented. That needs to change.