Written by: Carolyn Ashley, Director of Employee Development & Engagement at Port Houston, and Caitlin Perry, Internal Communications Specialist at Port Houston.
As an international port in the most diverse city in the U.S., Port Houston has a duty to promote diversity, equity and inclusion as an employer, community partner and regional leader. Port Houston recently formalized its commitment by officially adopting a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Position Statement:
Honoring the promise to do what is right within the organization, Port Houston announced the creation of a Business Equity Division. This division will lead our DEI efforts, with a focus on promoting equity and enhancing opportunity for all, both internally and externally.
These are positive steps, but is DEI really that important for moving cargo?
In short, absolutely! “Diversity, equity and inclusion are not supplemental to our mission,” says Executive Director Roger Guenther, “they are vital to Port Houston’s present and future success.”
Fairness in contracting was identified as an opportunity for improvement at the conclusion of a Disparity Study we contracted in 2020, but DEI is also a critical internal focus. Diversity in our workforce is a key component of honoring the communities we serve. It also fosters innovation. Embracing diverse perspectives leads to greater creativity, stronger decision-making and enhanced collaboration.
One of Port Houston’s strategic goals is becoming “the best place to work.” Creating the right environment is a must to attract the specialized talent required by our multifaceted operations. A workplace culture that supports the success, psychological safety and professional confidence of every individual is the ultimate goal. Empowering every person to contribute fuels inclusion and belonging, while maximizing the value of diversity to strengthen an already dynamic team.
The ability to pursue our mission as a team – across barriers of race, ethnicity, gender, age, etc. – may be in our nature, but it does not always come naturally. It takes the intentional effort of building impartiality and fairness into processes and programs. Creating and sustaining equitable business practices, both internally and externally, is the key to meaningful change. This will create a strong team, and the stronger our team is, the better we can continue to move cargo.
Equity prevents diversity from veering into tokenism and inclusion from dwindling into favoritism. For Port Houston, diversity means getting the right people around the table. Inclusion means giving them a voice. Equity means legitimizing and protecting it.
So how is Port Houston doing DEI?
The work of DEI is never done, but we are doing several things to advance the culture of diversity, equity and inclusion at Port Houston. The big push began last summer with roundtable discussions, attended by 122 employees. In early 2021, Port Houston’s senior staff attended Inclusive Leadership training to pave the way for organizational training to come. We also adopted the new Minority- and Woman-Owned Business Enterprise Development (MWBE) Policy and the Amended Small Business Development (SBE) Policy with aggressive goals for participation. Finally, the creation of a formal DEI Plan has been set as an organizational priority for 2021, and an action team has been formed to tackle the task.
Both internally and externally, DEI is more of a marathon than a sprint. It will be an ongoing process, a learning journey and a transformation in many ways. Port Houston has a tremendous opportunity to be an agent of positive change in our region and beyond, and we are grabbing that opportunity. It will be worth every ounce of effort to make our corner of the world a better place for generations to come.