The Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman Dan Rooney were instrumental in the passing of the Rooney Rule some years ago, which made it a requirement that teams with openings at head coaching and senior football operations positions interview at least one minority candidate for the position.
In doing so, hypothetically, it would include minorities in the talent pool where previously they have found it more difficult to make inroads in what is largely an established fraternity, recycling personnel from among previously composed staffs rather than incorporating many new faces.
The Rooney Rule has undoubtedly had its successes in increasing the diversity of its target positions and in broadening the scope of the search for each successive cycle of job openings. The process also serves as job training to familiarize candidates, who may have previously been significantly less likely to receive an interview opportunity, with the process, and the expectations being asked of them in advance.
On the strength of the body of data accumulated over the years in studying the impact of the Rooney Rule, the NFL announced yesterday that it would be extending the scope of its aim even further, once again expanding upon the conventional pool of candidates that would typically be involved in a given hiring process.
During the NFL’s first Women’s Summit held during the Super Bowl 50 festivities, it was determined that the Rooney Rule would now encompass front office executive positions and opening the doors for women to break deeper into that world by making it a requirement to interview at least one female candidate for execution operations openings.
Naturally, football has not customarily been viewed as the territory of the opposite sex. The sport has since its inception been a male-dominated enterprise, with few women on any organized level participating in the sport itself. Take, for example, the mockery of the Lingerie League as Exhibit A.
Women have begun to make inroads into the NFL landscape, however, in recent years. Over the course of the past two offseasons, the league has introduced us to the first full-time female official, and more recently, the first female coach of any rank with a full-time status, in this instance an assistant special teams coach.
There is, of course, more diversity within the front office, and has been expanding over the years. The expansion of the Rooney Rule will see to the continued growth of female representation in team management around the league.
In the Steelers’ own front office, for instance, Diane Lowe was promoted internally in 2011 to serve as an Administrative Assistant. A quick look at their front office listings shows women very well-represented within their business office section. They were also the first organization to employ a female athletic trainer.
Given their own trailblazing history in incorporating women into the male-dominated world of football, in whatever capacity, it is fitting that this new directive continues to fall under the Rooney Rule, named after Dan Rooney himself.