Mae Jemison Astronaut

It’s time to update 19th century technology terminology!

Image: In 1992 Mae Carol Jemison became the first African American woman to travel in space. (Wikimedia)

Unmanned and master/slave are two terms that are offensive to many in the community. Such terms may once have been accepted by society, but not any longer, and we are pleased to see many organizations starting to use alternative terms.

We call on you in 2022 to remove words with negative connotations, like the ones listed below, from all materials, course descriptions, department names, products, forms, reports or articles. The benefit to you is in broadening your appeal to all the community members who find those terms, if not outrightly offensive, then at the least old-fashioned and representative of a mindset that has not engaged meaningfully with creating inclusive or modern robotics.

Women in Robotics has taken the lead in curating a list of best practices in inclusive terminology, in consultation with other groups, and now we would like to share the first draft of “Terminology for 21st Century Technologists” for comment. So far we’ve considered gender, ethnicity and some disability issues. Our goal is to create a comprehensive directory of terminology, which can go through an update process periodically, just as standards do. There is obviously a little more work to be done and we want to include sections on ‘how to retire terms’, ‘how to implement changes constructively’ and more information about the process. This is where you can help us.

Please send comments in response to the first draft by June 28 2022 to