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Advancing Equity through Port-wide Policy

March 29, 2023

Today marks an historic day for the Port of Seattle. During the March 28 Commission meeting, Commission staff and I delivered the first reading (starting at 02:04:15) of the Equity Policy Directive, which will be put to a vote at our April 11th meeting. This policy directive is the first of its kind for our organization, and in many ways, is revolutionary legislation. It will institutionalize equity into our organization for years to come, ensuring that we prioritize just, inclusive policies and programs internally and externally.  

A brief history of our equity work 

Nearly four years ago, the Port of Seattle became the first port authority in the country to establish an office of equity. In doing so, our organization committed time and resources to embed equity, diversity, and inclusion into the fabric of the organization. Also, by creating the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI), the Port acknowledged that for too long it had comfortably operated in an unjust, racist society that works to the benefit of a few at the expense of many. By failing to acknowledge and actively addressing these inequities, the organization realized that it was playing a role in perpetuating them. 

While we still have a lot of work ahead of us, the Port has made incredible progress — in just four short years — in advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion in our programs, policies, and culture. Our successes have only been possible thanks to the work and partnerships of our Employee Resource Groups, Development and Diversity Council, Change Team, dedicated staff and supervisors, the Commission office, and the community we serve. We must also acknowledge the groundwork and foundation laid by past employees, like Charles Blood, Lindsey Pulsifer, and Tyree Scott, to name a few. Working together, we have already begun to see transformation, and here are a few examples.  

  • South King County Community Impact Fund — directing resources to near-airport communities to support environmental sustainability, workforce development in port industries, and economic recovery from the pandemic  
  • Youth Maritime Career Launch — partnering with maritime industry employers, providing training and services to young people between the ages of 16-24, and placing youth in internships that may lead to full-time employment in entry-level maritime roles
  • Anti-Racism and Equity values — updating our organization’s value — R.A.I.S.E. — to include anti-racism and equity  
  • Juneteenth — officially recognizing Juneteenth as a Port-paid holiday
  • Equity and Women of Color Assessments – in 2021, completing two creative, groundbreaking assessments of the Port’s ability to advance equity, analyzing both port-wide practices and the experience and barriers unique to women of color employees. These two assessments have been informing the direction of OEDI’s and the Port’s equity work since the beginning of 2022  

The next chapter in our journey 

As the Port builds on these efforts and continues to work to become a truly equitable, anti-racist organization, we are very excited to mark the Commission’s Equity Policy Directive (EPD) as the next chapter or step in our organization’s journey.  The Commission will take a final vote on the directive at its April 11 meeting. 

The EPD will guide the integration of equity, diversity, and inclusion into the Port’s policies, practices, and programs for years to come. The directive will move us beyond simple compliance and mandates toward long-term commitment and sustainable transformation, embedding equity into the fabric of the Port so that the practice and value of equity live beyond current staff, leadership, and Commissioners.  

This directive represents more than a year of work among the Commission Office, OEDI, Human Resources, External Relations, Legal, the Port’s Executive Leadership Team, external and community-based partners, and input from many Port employees. And while this directive codifies much of the work already launched by OEDI, it creates policy and protocol changes to turn our values of equity, inclusion, and belonging into concrete action steps for all employees to advance our equity goals and vision. Here’s an overview of what the Equity Policy Directive will do.  


  • OEDI will become a permanent department at the Port of Seattle with the Senior Director of OEDI serving as a permanent member of the Executive Leadership Team  
  • The Port of Seattle’s Change Team will become a permanent group of directors and front-line employees representing every department in the organization. Change Team members are charged with leading efforts to integrate equity and anti-racism practices into their respective departments  


  • All Port departments will be required to set and work toward annual department-specific equity goals. Progress toward these annual department goals will inform the annual performance evaluations of the Executive Director and members of the Executive Leadership Team
  • All Port departments will be required to use the Port’s Equity in Budgeting Playbook in annual business planning and budgeting processes 
  • OEDI will be responsible for supporting the growth of EDI practices and values through employee training, programming, and development activities. These activities will focus on deepening Port staff’s understanding, analysis, and awareness of systemic and institutionalized racism and anti-Black racism. Additionally, the EPD will establish annual equity training requirements for all Port employees


  • The EPD commits the Port to expand its portfolio of community-based programs, such as the Duwamish Valley Community Equity Program 
  • The Port will engage and convene cohorts of community members and advisors, as needed, to collaborate and provide input on policies, programs, and initiatives  
  • The Port will collaborate and partner with other government entities on initiatives that advance equity 
  • Finally, OEDI will develop an environmental justice framework and/or principles to guide future Port operations and process. This framework will be developed collaboratively with internal Port departments and external stakeholders and partners  

The Equity Policy Directive represents the exciting next chapter in the Port’s efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are not only cementing equity into how our organization operates, but we’re also communicating that equity must be part of our organizational practices and outcomes indefinitely.  

Ultimately, our vision is to develop a Port that mirrors — throughout its breadth of operations and services and within its leadership structure — the diversity of our community, instills principles of equity in its culture, and ensures a fair and intentional distribution of opportunities with the goal of expanding economic development and quality of life for all. This policy directive alone will not get us to this goal. We must all work together — Port Commissioners and leadership, employees, community partners, industry business, and community members — to realize this vision, and we’re up for the challenge! 

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