The Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule doesn’t say if Wayne Rooney scores England will win in fact it is nothing to do with the Manchester United footballer. The Rooney Rule comes from American football it requires football clubs with a management vacancy to include suitably qualified black candidates on their short list. In effect it is an interview guarantee scheme. And it works. Ten years ago there were no black coaches managing major league football teams despite the high proportion of black players. By 2007 the Super Bowl was contested between two black coaches.

On the 20th anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence it seems appropriate to review how much has changed. Whilst there is evidence of general progress and change in attitudes it is still the case that black people are underrepresented in senior positions. Whether we are talking about premiership football managers or public sector senior managers black people continue to be underrepresented.

Clearly there is still a problem. If we want to ensure that we are not in the same position in another 20 years then radical solutions need to be tried. No public sector organisation would in this day and age have an all male interview panel when 70% of the staff working in the public sector are female, would they? The concept of a balanced interview panel in terms of gender is established. Many organisations operate a guaranteed interview scheme for suitably qualified people with a disability. Some organisations have extended the balanced interview panel to include race. Why not adopt the Rooney Rule in the public sector and have a balance short list, a guaranteed interview scheme for suitably qualified and experience black managers.

What better way to mark this sad anniversary than to show thinking has changed in the way we recruit people in the public sector.

Blair McPherson author of An Elephant in the Room which is about equality and diversity in the public sector published by Russell House    



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