What local firms are doing to promote diversity and equity

Here’s how some of Snohomish County’s biggest companies and organizations say they are making a difference.

Across the United States, businesses are revising their company policies to address racial equity concerns and increase diversity.

Bellevue-based Microsoft announced a company-wide racial equity initiative, accompanied by $150 million investment to further diversity and inclusion.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines made a commitment to increase the number of Black employees throughout the company — including at the highest levels of leadership. “This means revising our recruiting and hiring practices to do a better job of reducing bias and hiring diverse talent,” Alaska Airlines said in a blog post.

In a letter to all employees in June, Brad Tilden, then CEO of Alaska Air Group, said: “On top of the tragedy of the coronavirus, we’ve had the senseless and tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. It is sickening to see these occur in the present day. We must be better than this. It’s not the responsibility of Black Americans and other communities of color to correct the conditions which led to the attacks. That responsibility lies with all of us.”

The Herald Business Journal reached out to some of Snohomish County’s largest employers and asked about racial equity and diversity goals. Here are excerpts from their responses.

The Boeing Co., Chicago

Boeing employs about 30,000 at the company’s Everett campus. In August, Boeing CEO David Calhoun outlined a Racial Equity Action Plan and announced a $10 million donation to support social justice and racial equity programs. Here are some excerpts from Calhoun’s statement. To read it in its entirety, go to bit.ly/3wdNql6.

“We are digging deeply into confronting racism and racial equity at Boeing,” Calhoun said. “With input from team members and leaders at all levels — including Business Resource Groups; front-line managers and teammates of color; diversity, equity and inclusion experts; and external stakeholders from communities of color — we understand we have work to do.”

Some of the company’s key measures include raising the number of Black employees by 20%. Beginning this year, “We will increase transparency by publishing our representation annually,” Calhoun said. The company will establish a Racial Equity Task Force that includes an “advisory council composed of Black leaders and others from diverse backgrounds.”

Boeing will specifically focus on three areas:

• Create inclusion and equity for all: “We are committed to building diverse teams and holding ourselves accountable to equitable processes that promote trust and transparency,” Calhoun said.

• Confront racism head on: “We expect all employees to act with integrity, promote diversity and inclusion, and treat one another with trust and respect. Any behavior that runs counter to this will not be tolerated,” Calhoun said.

• Build and support a coalition among communities and suppliers: “We will leverage the Boeing brand and buying power to ensure the ecosystem in which we live, recruit and work aligns to our values. And we’ll continue building on our support of minority-owned suppliers,” Calhoun said. “To ensure we see progress, all managers will set a business priority on inclusion, and all executives will be accountable for helping the company reach its representation targets.”

Edmonds School District

The Edmonds School District, which employs 3,500, said it aims to recruit, hire, retain and support a diverse, culturally responsive workforce. It plans to refine the hiring process, including job descriptions, application and interview questions and policies to ensure it is eliminating unintentional bias or exclusionary practices.

The district also plans to develop targeted recruitment and hiring plans; attend job fairs focused on candidates of color; continue to build partnerships with colleges and universities; provide training for people involved in the hiring process; and develop and refine mentoring programs for new teachers.

Everett Public Schools

The Everett School District, which has 2,600 employees, has a Human Resources division that reviews employment data throughout the school year and provides the School Board with an annual update of recruitment and hiring progress.

Recruitment efforts include a focus on colleges and universities with diverse student enrollment.

Other strategies: Target recruitment for candidates who are bilingual and bi-literate and are fluent in Spanish; develop and maintain partnerships with community organizations; and examine selection and retention practices to identify indicators of bias and adjust practices to be more inclusive.

To recruit and retain a diverse workforce, the school system has developed opportunities for students and staff to generate interest in teaching as a career. One program is the Recruit Washington Teachers – Bilingual Educator Initiative, which is grant-funded. Local partners include the Marysville School District, Everett Community College and the University of Washington Bothell.

The Everett Clinic

The Everett Clinic, with 3,000 employees, says it is firmly committed to equity, inclusion, diversity and a safe environment within and outside the organization. The health care provider says that research shows there are significant negative health outcomes due to inequity and that the clinic “can play a strong, positive role in helping people live healthier lives and make the health care system work better for everyone.”

“Our objective is equitable experiences and health outcomes for every individual regardless of demographic background while reflecting the communities we serve,” The Everett Clinic said.

The clinic has a task force focused on health and racial equity.

“In addition to implicit bias training, we are working to define meaningful actions to ensure we are attracting, advancing and supporting talent of all backgrounds, and accelerating our efforts to advance equitable care.”

Providence Northwest Washington, Everett

Providence Northwest employs 5,000 and “strives to create a welcoming environment where everyone feels they belong. We want our workforce to represent the community we serve. We care for a diverse population.”

The health care provider says it’s “important that patients see themselves in their caregivers. When patients receive care from people who understand them and their life experiences, they feel more confident in the care they receive.”

The organization has created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leadership team to educate and train leaders and has recognized groups for caregivers “who identify as Black, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, veteran, women and their allies.”

“We also have a Diversity and Caregiver Well-Being Committee, comprised of caregivers from across the Providence family of organizations, to provide feedback and implement programs aimed at creating a diverse and inclusive environment. We will be launching a Justice and Equity Council in the coming months which will ensure awareness and alignment with our Health Equity initiatives,” Providence said.

Providence said it is committed to improving health equity, “as we know there is a tremendous disparity in health outcomes based on different socioeconomic factors. We recognize that diversity, equity and inclusion is an ongoing journey. We will continually refine our efforts and build upon best practices from across the Providence family and from other organizations.”

Premera Blue Cross, Mountlake Terrace

Premera Blue Cross employs 3,250 people and says it “strives to promote a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment, where all employees have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

“We are working to create diverse pipelines of talent through intentional recruiting outreach, community partnerships, marketing, and internship programs,” the company said.

An employee-led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion group works alongside company leaders.

Premera Blue Cross is involved in local partnerships such as Washington Employers for Racial Equity “as well as our national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association platform and our participation in their National Health Equity Strategy.”

Last year, Premera said, it committed $5 million over three years to health equity programs, specifically focused on the Black community.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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