First-of-its kind workshop for Metropolitan shares best practices, bold ideas for actions to promote diversity, equity, inclusion
LOS ANGELES – Continuing on its path to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace, Metropolitan Water District leaders this week convened its first-ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Forum focused on creating a strong sense of belonging for all.
Metropolitan’s Board of Directors, executive managers, employees and the public participated in the district’s inaugural workshop on Tuesday (Aug. 23). The “Play to Win, Advancing Inclusive Excellence” event explored best-in-class practices to advance inclusive leadership and strategies to support a diverse workforce. Speakers from external companies and organizations also shared about diversity's critical role and how those values translate into success.
“My life’s work has been to increase diversity and as chairwoman of Metropolitan’s board and its first African-American to serve at the helm, I know that our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion must go beyond mere pledges and promises,” said Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray. “True progress and our ultimate success as an organization depends on the strength of our commitment and the everyday actions all of us take as we work together to create a place of belonging."
A recording of the forum is available here.
“Throughout my career, the work to advance DEI has been my foremost priority,” said Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil. “My commitment to this vital cause has grown out of my own experience as a first-generation American and I am proud to support Metropolitan’s board as we carry out the actions necessary to counter racial injustice, and create a safer, stronger, and more equitable workplace."
The forum builds on other foundational actions Gray and the board have taken this year.
In October 2021, as part of its ongoing dedication to improving its workplace culture for all employees, Metropolitan’s Board of Directors adopted a Statement of Commitment pledging its support of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The Board recently established a first-ever board committee exclusively focused on diversity, equity and inclusion issues and a new committee that will address matters related to underserved communities that have traditionally faced barriers associated with access to safe, clean and reliable water supplies and resources to support investments and job development in the water industry.
In April, Metropolitan named its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer to head a new office created to propel and support a positive workplace for employees across the district. The DE&I Officer also leads the district’s DE&I Council, representing Metropolitan’s employee resource groups and unions that collaborate on how to improve policies, practices and the employee experience at Metropolitan.
In June 2022, Metropolitan became founding members of Equity in Infrastructure Project, a national effort to increase equity in the nation’s infrastructure construction economy and help build generational wealth in underrepresented communities across the country. In signing the Equity in Infrastructure pledge, Gray and Hagekhalil joined four other leading infrastructure-constructing agencies – Chicago Transit Authority, Denver International Airport, Port of Long Beach and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority – in the initiative designed to drive greater access to contracting and other business opportunities. Concurrently, Metropolitan’s DE&I Office is focused on workforce development programs to create a jobs pipeline for the communities it serves.
“We need to expand the diverse talent in the water industry, including more men and women of color,” Gray said. “This means teaching and engaging youth early on, supporting internship programs, placing a premium on reaching those communities that have been disenfranchised, and opening the doors of opportunity for employees who reflect the diverse communities we serve across Southern California. I am fully committed to building this re-envisioned Metropolitan of tomorrow in a way that embraces equity for all and a shared greater purpose to our communities.”
“I am encouraged by the progress I’m seeing at Metropolitan,” Gray said. “We’re taking an honest look at our policies and our culture. We said it is time to have an open dialogue about racism. And we’ve shared our desire to build a more equitable and inclusive workforce. Now it is up to us to continue our work together to build that resilient, equitable and successful society that we all know is possible.”
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative that, along with its 26 cities and retail suppliers, provides water for 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.