The Rooney Rule: Why It Won’t Work

The Rooney Rule: in 2003, Pittsburg Steelers chairman Dan Rooney implemented the original Rooney Rule. He mandated that every team with an opening for a head coach position interview at least one minority candidate for the role; the rule was expanded to include general managers four years later. Today, the rule has been adapted for corporate adoption: under the rule, at least one woman and one underrepresented minority must be considered in the slate of candidates for either every open position or every open senior position.

As this Fortune article asserts, the Rooney Rule is finding supporters in the tech world. Joelle Emerson of Paradigm notes that the appeal of the Rooney Rule is that the rule does not set out specific hiring goals for companies. There is a fear that “…goals equal quotas, and quotas will lower the talent bar.” However, simply mandating diversity isn’t a sustainable solution to actually increasing diversity in a productive manner.

The Rooney Rule has its heart in the right place, but the execution is all wrong.

Over the years, the question of diversity has evolved: organizations now recognize that promoting diversity is good for employee morale, creativity, company culture and ultimately, the bottom line. The question is no longer “Why do we need to be more diverse?”, it is “How do we become more diverse?” Which, as it turns out, is a much trickier question to answer.

Quotas and hiring goals are the obvious tools to reach for to increase diversity. But they are blunt instruments that arbitrarily prioritize a candidates ‘diversity’ rating over fit or potential for success in a particular position. Quotas and goals are meant to level the playing field by compensating for socio-economic inequalities, differences in background and opportunity. To truly level the playing field, we must create a hiring process that is truly objective, and evaluates candidates based on metrics that are relevant to job success. At pymetrics (the company I co-founded with colleague Julie Yoo), we use cognitive and emotional traits as metrics to match candidates with compatible careers based on our neuroscience post-doc research at MIT. As a result, our candidate recommendations are more diverse than any pool generated as a result of resume reviews or human screening.

Change will be slow. The demographic makeup of entire industries will not change overnight – nor should it. Ensuring fair and equal hiring practices will diversify the current workforce slowly, but sustainably. The media likes to lament that the tech industry is making too little progress to celebrate, but cites the changes in total workforce as justification for their gloomy judgements. We need to be scrutinizing the changes in hiring demographics rather than the changes in the entire workforce. Changing the way we approach recruiting is the only way to impact diversity without discrimination of any kind.

Frida Polli, Ph.D, MBA is co-founder and CEO of pymetrics, a company that uses neuroscience to match best-fit candidates with compatible careers. She’s a mother to an awesome daughter, Ele.

Source: The Rooney Rule: Why It Won’t Work

Via: Google Alert for Neuroscience