Inclusion and Diversity in Writing
As a large scientific and technical community that has a direct impact on many people from
different backgrounds around the world, Diversity and Inclusion are crucial for the data management
community. ACM explains these goals as follows. Diversity is achieved when the individuals around
the table are drawn from a variety of backgrounds and experience, leading to a breadth of viewpoints,
reasoning, and approaches (also referred to as "the who"). Inclusion is achieved when the environment
is characterized by behaviors that welcome and embrace diversity ("the how"). Both are important in
our writing and other forms of communication such as posters and talks.
Be mindful of not using language or examples that further the marginalization, stereotyping, or
erasure of any group of people, especially historically marginalized and/or under-represented groups
(URGs) in computing. Of course, exclusionary or indifferent treatment can arise unintentionally.
Be vigilant and actively guard against such issues in your writing. Reviewers will also be empowered
to monitor and demand changes if such issues arise in your submissions. Here are some examples of
such issues for your benefit:
Examples of exclusionary and other non-inclusive writing to consider avoiding:
- Implicit assumption: An example of database integrity constraints: "Every person has a
mother and a father." This example is exclusionary and potentially hurtful to people from
single-parent households and people with same-sex parents.
- Oppressive terminology: Using the term "Master-Slave" to describe a distributed data system
architecture. This can be hurtful to people whose families have suffered the inhumanity of enslavement.
A good source of alternative terms to oppressive language often used in computer science can be found
in this article.
- Marginalization of URGs: An example of attribute domains: "The Gender attribute is either
Male or Female." This example is exclusionary and potentially hurtful to people who are intersex,
transgender, third gender, two-spirit, agender, or have other non-binary gender identities.
- Lack of accessibility: Using color alone to convey information in a plot when good
alternative data visualization schemes exist. This can be exclusionary to people who are
color-blind. Please consider using patterns, symbols and textures to emphasize and contrast
visual elements in graphs and figures, rather than using colors alone. Use a color-blind
friendly palette that is designed with accessibility for visually impaired people. Avoid bad
color combinations such as green/red or blue/purple.
- Stereotyping: Reinforcing gender stereotypes in names or examples of roles, e.g., using
only feminine names or presentations for personal secretary or assistant roles.
Going further, please also consider actively raising the representation of URGs in your writing.
Diversity of representation helps create an environment and community culture that could ultimately
make our field more welcoming and attractive to people from URGs. This is a small but crucial step
you can take towards celebrating and improving our community’s diversity.
Examples of infusing diversity into writing to consider adopting:
- Embracing different cultures: Names of people are a visible way to enhance diversity
of representation in writing. Instead of reusing overused names in computing such as Alice and
Bob, consider using names from a variety of languages, cultures, and nationalities, e.g.,
Alvarez and Bano. Avail of the many online resources on this front for ideas, e.g.,
this article on names
across different cultures.
- Embracing differences in figures: Depictions of people or people-like icons in
illustrations are also a good avenue to enhance diversity of representation. Consider
depicting people of different gender presentations, skin colors, ability status, and other
visible attributes of people.
- Embracing gender diversity in pronouns: Consider using a variety of gender pronouns
across your named examples consciously, including "he/him/his," "she/her/hers," and
"they/them/theirs". Likewise, consider using gender-neutral nouns when referring to generic
roles, e.g., "chairperson" or just "chair" instead of "chairman," and gender-neutral pronouns
for such roles.
Finally, if your work involves data-driven techniques that make decisions about people,
please consider explicitly discussing whether it may lead to disparate impact on different
groups, especially URGs. Consider discussing the ethical and societal implications.
For example, see this article discussing the potential for disparate impact of facial
recognition in healthcare and strategies to avoid or reduce harm. This SIGMOD Blog article
also gives a comprehensive overview of various dimensions and approaches for responsible
application of data management ideas. We hope our community can help permeate this culture
of responsibility and awareness about potentially harmful unintended negative consequences
of our work within the larger computing landscape.
Acknowledgments and Further Reading
- ACM Diversity and Inclusion: Webpage
- ACM SIGMOD Blog article on "Data, Responsibly": Webpage
- AMA Journal of Ethics article on "What Are Important Ethical Implications of Using Facial Recognition Technology in Health Care?":
- Article on "Inclusive CS Examples": Webpage
- Article on "Terminology, Power and Oppressive Language": Webpage
- Helpful materials from UCSD CSE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee:: Webpage
- NeurIPS CFP on Broader Impact Statement: Webpage
- Wikipedia listing of names across cultures: Webpage
This document was originally created for SIGMOD 2021. We thank the SIGMOD 2021 PC Chairs and Web Chair for their feedback or dissemination.