Although the NFL has long been a male-dominated business both on the field and in the front office, the last year has been a landmark one for women breaking into the sport. First, Sarah Thomas was hired as the league's first female referee, and just a few months later Jen Welter was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as its first female coach. Now the San Francisco 49ers are adopting a measure that could significantly accelerate the trend they started.
As Jane McManus of espnW reports, the team is adapting the NFL's Rooney Rule to all business-focused jobs, which make up about 75 percent of its staff. The league announced the female-focused aspect of the rule, originally formed for people of color, during Super Bowl week in San Francisco earlier this year. It calls for at least one woman to be interviewed for all executive openings in the NFL front office.
49ers CEO Jed York said the idea came from a discussion with his mother Denise DeBartolo York, the teams' majority owner. "I owe it to her, and we owe it to people, like my wife and sisters, that if you love sports, you should have an opportunity," he said.
Hannah Gordon, the team's general counsel, said the plan is to start just on the business side so it can be executed well. "What you're essentially developing, you hope, are women who could be presidents of franchises," she explained.
The policy will also be implemented for minority candidates, and although it's not a surefire solution to secure diversity, it is a step in the right direction. "This is the beginning," York said. "I don't think we want to pat ourselves on the back, but this is a beginning."