What the Numbers Say About the Rooney Rule

A Little Background

In 2002, two NFL coaches, Tony Dungy and Dennis Green, were fired despite their impressive wins and records. What followed was a movement that catalyzed a movement in hiring, in sports and elsewhere. Soon thereafter, two U.S. civil rights attorneys reported findings that black head coaches, despite winning a higher percentage of games, were more likely to be fired and less likely to be hired than white head coaches. This sparked a diversity initiative dubbed “The Rooney Rule,” after Dan Rooney, the former chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee. The policy required teams to interview at least one ethnic minority candidate for head coaching positions.

Unsurprisingly, tech giants eventually followed suit. In 2015, Pinterest and Facebook implemented the policy in regards to racial minorities and women. The Rooney Rule dictates that for every hire, at least one woman and one person of color has to be taken to the onsite interview stage. In August of that year, then-President Obama called for other tech companies to do the same, the logic being that it grants more opportunities to underrepresented candidates. All in all, the Rooney Rule was seen as a bold move against Silicon Valley’s longstanding diversity problem.

But does it really work?

According to an article from Harvard Business Review… well, it’s complicated. In terms of race, the odds of hiring a minority were 193.72x greater when there were at least two underrepresented minority (URM) candidates in the finalist pool, as opposed to just one. Another astounding observation: the chances of a woman being hired is increased when there is more than one woman in the finalist pool; however, there is statistically no chance that a woman will be hired if there is only one woman in the finalist pool.

The study explores status quo bias. If there is only one woman or one URM in a finalist candidate pool, standing out inhibits their chances. The inclination to preserve the status quo outweighs any opportunity the candidate might gain from getting to the final stages. However, increasing the number of required women and URM candidates drastically increases the amount of subsequent diverse hires.

Moreover, a governing body doesn’t oversee a tech company’s use of the Rooney Rule. While NFL teams could get fined for failing to meet the rule’s standards, but companies like Facebook self-police their usage. This leads to a relative lack of accountability in regards to how well this initiative fares.

What’s our verdict?

In its current state, the Rooney Rule can be a prohibitive way for a company to partake in performative inclusion. However, with evidence pointing towards successful diverse candidate requirements, it can be revisited and reformed. There is so much to be gained from a diverse workforce, and it starts in the hiring process… as soon as tech giants stop treating women and minorities as tokens.  

In our next post of the series, we will present our own findings: what stage of the funnel and what demographic groups are affected, either positively or negatively, to getting an offer. 

Want to know more about Atipica and how we can help your company work towards its diversity goals? Email us at support@atipica.co!

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