Trewstar Corporate Board Services

In June, the NY Times published Eric Holder’s recommendations for improving Uber’s workplace culture.

August 07, 2017

The recommendations are laced with references to “diversity and inclusion” and urge the company to take meaningful action to ensure a commitment to progress on this issue.

No matter the cultural norms prescribed for a workplace, without meaningful hiring changes, those norms are empty promises.

Holder’s response to this dilemma: adopt the Rooney Rule. This is the policy embraced by the NFL requiring teams to interview members of minority groups for both administrative and coaching jobs. Specifically, a member of an underrepresented minority group must be interviewed on each slate of candidates.

While this might work for the NFL, we give it two thumbs down when it comes to adding women to the corporate boardroom. At Trewstar, we believe the Rooney Rule is a quarterback sneak that might get a first down, but rarely a touchdown. With the Rooney Rule, interviewing diversity candidates becomes the focus, instead of the far harder, but real goal of adding outstanding female executives to America's corporate boards.

If boards are looking to accelerate the pace of change and are dedicated to diversity and inclusion, then we suggest the Trewstar Rule: Interview the women first. Fill the entire slate with highly qualified women, rather than one or two. If none fit the spec, then open the search to men. In many ways, this is a traditional approach, just switch the timing of who is interviewed first.

Whenever we leave the Rooney Rule on the field where it belongs and use the Trewstar Rule instead, one woman, often two, join a corporate board. That's a play that works.

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