employment

Our goal: to listen, talk and understand

By Deb SzaroSzaro

My Bias is Unconscious… Is Yours? That was the name of a workshop I attended recently in Washington, DC. It is also what I believe. Accepting without question that we all have biases of which we are not aware may have led to my seat on a panel in this all-day program on Nov. 2 run by EPA’s Diversity Council.

As deputy regional administrator of EPA’s New England office, I have intuitively felt that our office did a good – though never good enough – job of honoring diversity and making all employees feel respected and included.

As one of 10 panelists in a morning session, I gave an account of an African American employee in my region who shadowed me for a day.  Right in the middle of my anecdote, I realized that this account of how we operate in New England closely mirrors just the kind of culture our moderator had said is critical to addressing unconscious biases.

What is important, said Timothy Vianney Kane, associate director for inclusion initiatives at George Washington University, is creating an office and a culture where employees truly get to know one another, where they work together in an atmosphere that breeds support and acceptance.

My anecdote was about Marcus Holmes, an environmental engineer in our Superfund program who told the staff in our regional office his personal and professional story on a Diversity Panel. After that, Marcus shadowed me for a day, including to a meeting with folks from the human resources office. He listened as human resources staff talked about their respect for each other, at times moved to tears as they reflected on the feelings of loyalty and trust that had built up between them during years of working together.

Later, during an all-hands meeting about professional development, Marcus stood to tell a roomful of Region 1 employees about his shadowing experience, and jokingly said how he now wanted to work in the human resources office.

Although this story does not precisely talk to diversity, or even unconscious bias, it does directly address a culture that is critical to tackling our biases, a culture that is central to the way we try to run our office in Boston. When we get to know each other as people and hear each other’s stories, we can better understand each other. And when we know each other as human beings, not just as lawyers or scientists in another program, we are more apt to listen to each other with a ready mind and an open heart.

I know our office has come far, but there is always farther to go. I know we will not eliminate unconscious biases through a single diversity panel or even 10 all-day workshops. But as I talked and listened during this workshop in Washington DC, I felt validated in our approach here at EPA New England – an approach that firmly declares that only through a pervasive culture of embracing and respecting differences, of promoting humanity and of tackling unconscious bias head-on, can we hope to move forward to a more inclusive and accepting workplace.

This is the philosophy that this regional office excels at, and it is this philosophy that we will continue to nourish in the years ahead.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Cleaner Environment, a Stronger Economy

When we last heard from the Chamber of Commerce, they were releasing a report that made unfounded assumptions about EPA’s commonsense standards to cut the harmful pollution from power plants. The Washington Post Fact Checker later gave those citing the study a “Four Pinocchio” rating.
Yesterday, the Chamber had another blog post that both misrepresents EPA’s analysis of the economic impact of its regulations and misleads about a recent GAO study.

EPA is keenly aware that our economy is on the rebound and that policy makers are concerned about impacts on employment — that is why we have increased the amount of employment analysis we perform over the last several years, particularly for economically significant rules.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Green Jobs for Our Health and Our Economy

This post is cross posted from the  “Huffington Post”

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

With the economy on the minds of millions of Americans, President Obama continues to make job creation this administration’s top priority. Today the U.S Environmental Protection Agency is following through on that priority by supporting the creation of good, green jobs for Americans across the country.

The EPA is awarding more than $6.2 million in workforce development and job training grants to 21 communities nationwide. Organizations receiving grant support — ranging from a state environmental agency to community-based groups — will use it to train job-seekers, giving them the tools they need to manage, assess and clean up contaminated properties known as brownfields. In addition to providing marketable skills, part of the grant funding will help place those newly trained workers into available employment — creating a straight line between our investment and new jobs.

The environmental, health and economic benefits of brownfields cleanups are extensive and long-lasting. Brownfields sites are places like old gas stations, closed smelters and other industrial and commercial properties that have been left too contaminated to be safely redeveloped. The training programs supported by today’s grants will help graduates revitalize these sites with skills like solid waste management, underground storage tank removal, green construction and clean energy installation.

But this is about more than just creating jobs for one or two cleanup projects. The workers trained under these grants will be strengthening the conditions needed for healthy, sustainable job growth in their own communities. Rather than sitting idle and posing threats to the health of local residents, the revitalized sites can be safely transformed into parks or new economic developments. Since its inception, the brownfields program has sparked the transformation of once-abandoned and contaminated lands into business centers, recreational areas and other developments. That renewal sparks job creation, economic growth and healthier, stronger communities to raise a family and start a business.

The public and private partnerships fostered through the brownfields program have helped create more than 70,000 new jobs. And, as of June 1, 2011, the brownfields job training program alone has trained and placed almost 5,400 people in full-time, sustainable jobs.

Under President Obama’s leadership, we will continue to push for good, green jobs in communities across the nation. It makes perfect sense to seize the abundant opportunities to put people to work protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the lands where we build our communities. We can get the important economic benefits of new jobs, while we help make our communities better places to raise a family free from health risks, or to start a business knowing that problems in the environment aren’t going to turn away customers or make workers call in sick.

In other words, we can show that we don’t have to choose between breathing clean air and drinking clean water or creating good jobs. We can do them all at the same time.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.