The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) selected the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as the recipient of ASPA’s 2022 Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Exemplary Practice Award in recognition of its ongoing efforts to improve diversity and inclusion within the Port Authority, and in local communities in which the agency operates. Additionally, on Feb. 28, the Port Authority received the inaugural Transport and Logistics “Salute to Diversity” honor from The Journal of Commerce, which recognizes organizations in the transportation and logistics industry that are driving forward diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“We are honored to be recognized by the American Society for Public Administration and The Journal of Commerce for our efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive workplace,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “Our region is one of the most diverse in the nation. We are committed to ensuring not only that our workforce and our partners in the business community reflect that diversity, but that the environment in which they operate is respectful and inclusive.”
In 2020, the Port Authority pledged to sponsor extensive and candid discussions with employees across the agency about race dynamics and to deploy an aggressive anti-racism program. Working with the agency’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the agency established the Leadership Steering Committee to examine and address elements of race dynamics within the agency through six areas of focus.
These areas of focus include: 1) Evolving Port Authority culture; 2) Manager and employee development; 3) Transparency regarding Human Resources practices and functions; 4) Police diversity and enhanced best practices; 5) The Port Authority as a good community neighbor; and 6) Demonstrating a commitment through policy.
Nearly 30 employee listening sessions were held, engaging approximately 2,400 participants from across the agency, including union employees and Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRG). These sessions produced more than 600 employee comments and recommendations for improving workplace culture, diversity and fairness at the Port Authority as an agency and at its facilities.
“We are truly proud of our employee-driven, broad-based and wide-ranging effort to make the Port Authority a more just and inclusive place for all who work here and do business with the agency,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “These awards from the American Society for Public Administration and The Journal of Commerce are a testament to the hard work and dedication exhibited by our entire workforce and their efforts to ensure we have a strong roadmap to tackle and dismantle systemic racism.”
“As part of our work with the Leadership Steering Committee on Race Dynamics, we worked with staff across the agency to share their ideas on how and where we could improve our practices and policies to create a more inclusive work environment,” said Port Authority Acting Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Carrol Bennett. “We have initiated a number of targeted programs that support our business and workforce goals, and we are pleased to be recognized for our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
In 2021, using recommendations and ideas developed by and in partnership with employees across the agency, the LSC outlined 25 actions and recommendations to be implemented across the agency to continue to work toward new standards of excellence in achieving racial and cultural diversity in the workplace. The Port Authority has taken significant steps to support and cultivate a diverse workforce and create stronger ties with local communities within the port district, through interdepartmental collaboration between the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Human Resources, Government and Community Affairs, and the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD):
Among the actions taken based on the 25-point plan are several key initiatives:
Evolving Port Authority Culture: Publish comprehensive respectful workplace handbook; mandatory anti-racism training for all employees; and a new policy protecting employees’ cultural expression in the workplace.
Manager and Employee Development: New focus on career development for entry-level employees and individual contributors, including an agency-wide mentoring program; and new training for managers and leaders to create an inclusive workplace.
Transparency Regarding Human Resources Practices: Publication of workforce demographic data; creating an agency-wide diversity recruitment strategy; and revising the performance management process to reduce perception of bias in individual evaluations.
Police Diversity and Enhanced Best Practices: Body cameras for PAPD officers, including an updated PAPD use of force policy; and new recruitment programs to increase diversity within the department.
Port Authority as a Good Community Neighbor: Strengthen employee engagement at Port Authority with respect to community outreach and community employment programs in neighborhoods in which the agency operates.
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