The technology industry is borrowing a football tactic to try to increase the hiring of women. The Rooney Rule worked in the NFL. Can it work in the tech industry?

Since last year, companies including Facebook Inc. and Pinterest Inc. began implementing the Rooney Rule, developed by the National Football League to get more diversity in its coaching ranks. President Barack Obama cited it last year as a tool tech companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are using.

The idea is that tech companies must interview at least one woman or underrepresented minority for a position. The Rooney Rule is “a mechanism for getting people to be more inclusive in hiring women,” says Ellen Pao, a former venture capitalist and former interim chief executive of Reddit Inc., who recently co-founded Project Include, a tool to better measure and increase diversity in technology. “The current practices don’t work.”

Women’s representation in tech falls among the lowest of any industry, from entry-level positions to the C-suite, according to new data compiled by McKinsey Co. and LeanIn.Org for The Wall Street Journal. For instance, 36% of entry-level tech workers are women, lower than any industry except energy and basic materials.

Advocates of the Rooney Rule, which has been used in other sectors such as financial services and the legal industry, say it forces companies to look for job candidates they might not have considered. But some people question its effectiveness because it doesn’t focus on how many women are hired and then remain at the company.

“It could perpetuate the myth that the only problem is more diverse people aren’t considered,” says Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, a diversity consultancy that works with many Silicon Valley firms.

A Harvard Business Review study published in April determined that if there is only one woman in a group of candidates, there is statistically zero chance that she will be the one to be hired. The odds change if there is more than one female candidate.

The Rooney Rule is named after the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney, who pushed for the NFL to require teams to interview at least one minority candidate for all head-coach and general-manager positions.

Since it was implemented in 2003, the number of black head coaches has increased. Earlier this year, the NFL said that it would expand the Rooney Rule to include women when recruiting for executive jobs.

A Harvard Business Review study published in April determined that if there is only one woman in a group of candidates, there is statistically zero chance that she will be the one to be hired. The odds change if there is more than one female candidate.

The Rooney Rule is named after the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney, who pushed for the NFL to require teams to interview at least one minority candidate for all head-coach and general-manager positions.

Since it was implemented in 2003, the number of black head coaches has increased. Earlier this year, the NFL said that it would expand the Rooney Rule to include women when recruiting for executive jobs…

Read the rest of the original article by Christina Passariello via The Wall Street Journal, here.