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Personal identity at Canonical

At Canonical we believe your identity has no intrinsic bearing on your ability.

As humans, we all have elements of our identity which we did not choose. Our name. Our skin colour. Our nationality of birth. Our sexuality. Our gender. We may be neurodiverse, or have a disability. Some of these attributes may not be obvious.

Whatever your identity, you are welcome as a colleague if you share our values, our mission, our work ethic and our skills.

We have many outstanding colleagues who represent a wide spectrum of humanity. We treasure their contributions, and we stand for their right to pursue their ambitions as equals in the company.

We explicitly choose to reject discriminatory views which link identity with ability. Those who espouse such views are unwelcome at Canonical.

We work as a global team to ensure this value is consistently true. We leave no grey areas for equivocation. We expect each and every member of the company to stand clearly behind this position, and to share the responsibility of removing those who undermine it.

The Ubuntu Code of Conduct is a founding document for the company. It says:

Ubuntu is about showing humanity to one another: the word itself captures the spirit of being human.

We want a productive, happy and agile community that can welcome new ideas in a complex field, improve every process every year, and foster collaboration between groups with very different needs, interests and skills.

We gain strength from diversity, and actively seek participation from those who enhance it. This code of conduct exists to ensure that diverse groups collaborate to mutual advantage and enjoyment. We will challenge prejudice that could jeopardise the participation of any person in the project.

This statement is as true of Canonical as it is of the Ubuntu project.

We did not set out to create the world’s most profitable software company at any cost. We set out to bring the benefits of open source to all humanity by making it easier and cheaper to consume and easier to improve, to level the playing field for innovators, entrepreneurs, students and digital consumers all across the globe.

We also set out to create a productive work environment for those who want to contribute to the open source revolution we are creating — living and working wherever they prefer, regardless of their identity. We continue to seek ways to improve on these fronts.

Impact on our hiring process

As a candidate to join the company, we will work hard to assess your relevant ability, minimizing bias associated with identity.

Because we are open to hiring in every corner of the world, we must have a hiring process that does not depend too much on understanding local context. A resume is difficult to interpret without context — is that a good university trajectory, or a poor one? Was that a competitive placement, or not? We want to hire the best from every corner of the globe, and we cannot possibly have local context across the board.

In addition, underlying patterns of prejudice and privilege mean that people who come from the same place with different identities may not have had the same opportunity to reflect their ability in their resume. We should not amplify and reinforce local prejudice through our own hiring decisions.

For these reasons, we expect hiring leads to be more willing to move forward candidates from under-represented groups into the standard assessment stage, which is anonymous. This gives those candidates an opportunity to show what they can do on objective grounds, rather than relying on our own flawed ability to interpret a resume.

Many candidates who were previously rejected based on their resumes applying for a team, do very well in this assessment process and ultimately get strong positive feedback from that team during interviews.

Proactive appointments

We must attract the best colleagues from around the world.

‘Best’ is always a complex calculation that weighs many factors. People are not mechanical — they have strengths and weaknesses, and we weigh those up in making hiring decisions. Do we hire a developer with more experience in the language we use? Or a better track record of documenting their work? Or more familiarity with open source and community? Or a better track record of learning quickly? We often have candidates who are the best in one of those elements but not all of them. The ‘best’ candidate is usually the one who will round out and strengthen the team.

When making appointments, we often consider the impact a choice might have on future applicants and the flow of talent into the business. We might rationalise hiring a well known specialist in a particular field on the grounds that other outstanding but less well known people will be attracted to the company to work with them.

It is proven that candidates from under-represented groups feel more confident in pursuing roles in environments where they see others like them being successful. For this reason it is logical to consider the impact that an appointment might have in reassuring and attracting exceptional talent — the best talent — from that group.

We have no demographic quotas to fill, and every single appointment will be made individually on merit. In order to attract talent from every group, we strive to reflect the best of every group in our company.

On language at work

Generalisations and stereotypes are common in everyday culture and conversation — whether those are observations on enthusiastic British queuing or Irish charm.

We have all been the subject of teasing on one basis or another, and at a human level it’s healthy to learn to be gracious in the face of it. All the same, “I was only joking” is not a defence when offence has been given, and in the workplace we must be professionally mindful of the impact such statements have on the confidence and enjoyment of others. To dismiss a decision or a point of view or a perspective on the grounds of an element of identity is very likely unacceptable in the workplace. In many cases — gender, race, sexuality, religion — it is absolutely unacceptable. The fine line between those cases is not worth walking on.

Regardless of intention, if someone causes offence through an identity generalisation, then they are in the wrong. All of us will do better to avoid this risk entirely, and no person, regardless of seniority, will be allowed to ignore this with impunity.

It is not acceptable to claim that a given prejudice is normal in one’s culture. We offer opportunities globally on the condition of adherence to our chosen values. We will not accept that a statement was a ‘poor attempt at humour’. We also do not entertain intellectual debate on the science of demographic ability — our position is a choice to treat every person as if they have the potential to be successful, and to focus on actual evidence in our decisions.