Our social equity journey started around 2013 when many public agencies were considering how to provide services equitably. However, when stakeholder groups approached the Port about equity issues at the Port and in our community, the discussion on equity was elevated. Representatives from those organizations spoke at Commission meetings and at PDX Community Advisory Committee meetings. Between 2013 and 2014, the PDX Community Advisory Committee created ad hoc committee, which included the general public and the City of the Portland employees who also are CAC members. The ad hoc committee was tasked to explore opportunities of how the Port could improve existing PDX programs as they relate to social equity and social benefit, and how to influence tenants, and explore other broader social equity issues. During the course of a year, the ad hoc committee met for eight times, and in 2015, they provided recommendations.
In 2014, the Port hired Good Company, an Oregon-based consulting firm focused on the Triple-Bottom Line (environment, economic, and socio-economic), to assess social equity best practices in Government, Marine, aviation, and other transportation sectors, and make recommendations to the Port. The Port also hired Innovative Growth Solutions (IGS), another Oregon-based Organizational transformation firm, to help us review our HR processes, programs, and help lead conversations on equity, diversity and inclusion, and develop the business case for a diversity and inclusion program. The Port also compensated several local community organizations including the Urban League, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Latino Network, and North/Northeast Portland Business Association to conduct surveys about social equity needs and opinions.
Good Company recommendations included the following:
- Assign clear social equity program ownership by an Executive or Leadership Team Member.
- Establish a management structure for social equity, which includes a definition, policy, strategic framework, tracking and evaluation, reporting and communication mechanism.
- Go beyond compliance by setting aspirational goals to match regional demographics for employees and contracting.
- Involve peer organization and community stakeholders in design of the social equity program.
- Fill commission and executive positions with culturally diverse candidates and set goals for increasing diversity at all levels in all departments
- Dedicate resources for workforce diversity and inclusion work
- Develop a culture of inclusivity
- Develop strategies that attract, retain and develop a diverse workforce
- Hire a social equity manager
- Create an organizational social equity strategy
- Report annually on progress toward equity goals
- Consider a template for social equity considerations that could be voluntarily used with certain size projects.
The Port Executive team fully embraced these recommendations and they began incorporating social equity into the Fiscal Years’ 2016-2020 strategic plan discussions. At the completion of the Port’s FY 2016-2020 strategic plan discussion, equity was incorporated into our strategy, and Port share. Today, Social equity is being is woven into all key business initiatives. During that time, that is, between 2015 and 2016, the Port hired Social Equity and Diversity and Inclusion Program Managers. Both managers began developing and leading equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.
In 2017, the Port created a new division that consolidated equity functions that had historically been located under three executive team members. This new division, named Administration and Equity (A&E) allows us to have a cohesive focus on implementing our social equity strategy. We have completed external outreach about the Port’s social equity program’s vision and intended outcomes. Over a 6-month period, we had a group convened by the Intertwine Alliance with training provided by the Coalition for Communities of Color, to do a deep-dive racial equity, diversity and inclusion assessment.
We also launched a disparity study. The study examines the variance or disparity between minority and women-owned businesses that are available to participate in an organization’s business opportunities, and the actual numbers or utilization of minority and women businesses that receive contracts or otherwise participate in that organization’s business. In October, the Port’s Executive Team worked with Policy Link, an equity non-profit thought leader, to better understand equity principles and draft a social equity policy and guidelines. The policy and guidelines were distributed to a broad group of community stakeholders for feedback. That feedback was considered when finalizing the social equity policy, which was approved by the Commission on Feb 14, 2018. Between May and September, departments/divisions will be completing social equity plans and metrics. In early, 2019, we will go back to the Commission and present aspects of those plans and metrics.