But I haven't thought that much specifically about the language and terminology of engineering and how it reflects the dominant white male culture. Mostly, our stuff is pretty dry-sounding---algorithms, probabilities, databases, regression tests, platforms. Generally, it's stuff that people would consider pretty neutral, though anyone who's done anti-oppression work knows that there is really no such thing as "neutral." Even the characterization of logical, devoid-of-feeling terms as neutral reflects a cultural norm.
Today, while reviewing some system architecture specs, I came across some words that made me stop short: master/slave systems. I've seen these terms before, though not recently, and the meaning is obvious even to a non-engineer: it's when one device or process controls another. For someone far removed from the horrors of slavery, it's "just" a descriptive term.
But what of those for whom slavery isn't some abstract idea from a previous century, but an emotionally devastating reality? What does it say about a group, an industry, a culture where such ideas can be thrown around so casually? A Google search revealed this discussion on a forum for blacks in technology which is worth reading. Regardless of how one feels about the current use of these words, though, it's probably safe to say that they would not have become so common if the demographics of our community were different.
As an undergraduate working in a physics lab, I was completely grossed out when I learned about "male" and "female" connectors. Even before knowing what I know now about anatomy and gender diversity, I found the terminology crude and juvenile (albeit memorable). When I shared my discomfort with the (male) graduate student with whom I was working, he crowed gleefully, "But it's so perfect! See, you just STICK IT IN here, and it's like, you know . . ."
I don't claim that metaphors like these are the only reason, or even a big reason, that the engineering world remains so overwhelmingly male and white or Asian. If anything, they're just a symptom. If we want to get women and minorities interested in STEM fields and retain them, we have to look at every aspect of the current culture---including its language---through a variety of lenses. We have to look at the kind of environment we create when we assume particular perspectives and dismiss those with different ones as politically correct. And when enough people are able to say, "Wait a minute, is that really the best name for this? How's this going to affect someone who isn't like us?" then, and only then, do we get culture change.