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Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio

Rooney Rules Don’t Increase Diversity. Here's What Does.

Late-stage hiring interventions, like the NFL’s Rooney rule or law’s Mansfield rule, have been little more than box-ticking exercises.

This could be a law firm today.

This could be a law firm today.

Photographer: Archive Photos/Getty Images

The NFL’s Rooney rule is almost 20 years old. Beginning in 2003, teams have had to interview at least one non-White candidate for every open head coach position. Since 2020, teams have had to interview at least two such candidates. Although the rule has had almost zero effect — coaches are still overwhelmingly White in a sport that is majority Black — the rule has been branded as a silver bullet and adopted into larger industries, namely the legal and financial industries.

In the legal industry, the Mansfield rule — so-named for the first female attorney in the U.S. — requires that 30% of the candidates for leadership roles are women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ or lawyers with disabilities.