When we talk about creating safe and welcoming spaces in our communities, local businesses and organizations need to follow through and do the real work it takes. Having adequate policies and procedures, combined with regular diversity, equity and inclusion training are key to advancing these goals.
Oregon Convention Center hosts more than 600,000 people each year, so when almost one hundred OCC employees — with representation from all work groups and full time and variable hour staff alike — dedicated time to gain a clearer understanding of implicit bias, it can make a significant difference.
The training, Implicit Bias Part I: Understanding and Addressing Its Impact, was led on February 26th by Dr. Markisha Smith, Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Oregon Department of Education. It teaches what the different kinds of biases are – from stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination – and how employees can reframe their thinking to recognize, reduce, and eliminate them.
“This training stresses the importance of beginning and ending every interaction, with coworkers, clients, or guests, on a positive and respectful note,” said OCC’s Executive Director, Craig Stroud. “I personally ran into multiple team members around the center who stopped me to say how helpful they thought the training was.”
In addition to supporting improved employee engagement and furthering Metro’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goals, the training was a response to a recent negative incident that happened in our community. At a local hotel in December, a guest was removed from the property after unacceptable treatment by hotel staff. This incident garnered national attention, and OCC, Travel Portland and the region’s hospitality partners all responded in various ways to clients, customers, and members of our community to maintain confidence in Portland as a safe and welcoming destination.
“It hurts all of us to know that a guest had such a negative experience when visiting our city,” said Stroud. “Every person who enters our building is a guest, which without exception means that they should be welcomed and treated with genuine respect.”
OCC management seriously considered how the Center, as a member of the Portland service and hospitality community, could help to make real and lasting changes, and they determined that a focused training was a solid step in that direction. It was a priority to make sure staff at all levels had the same opportunity to attend. The session was scheduled in advance and participation was emphasized so that everyone could engage in these important conversations with Dr. Smith and their coworkers.
“I am proud of the positive and energetic actions we have taken as a team to address these needs at Metro and OCC,” said Stroud. “We will schedule more staff training in the future as an ongoing part of our equity action plan and to reinforce and continue our progress.”
About the Oregon Convention Center
The Oregon Convention Center is owned by Metro and managed by the Metro Exposition and Recreation Commission. OCC is a sustainably operated LEED® Platinum facility that hosts groups from around the world and brings millions of dollars into the Portland and Oregon economy.