A Discussion with Accra DEI Leader and Outreach Lead Mary Ngunu
In July of 2020, Accra formed its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee, and since then, it has developed structured company-wide initiatives. Recently, Accra’s DEI Leader and Outreach Lead Mary Ngunu answered some questions about diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Accra, and those efforts have evolved over the last 16 months.
To begin, how does Accra define diversity, equity and inclusion?
This term refers to the number of people with different characteristics that Accra has on staff, such as age, race, sexual identity or another characteristic. Diversity is really about the numbers.
Equity is demonstrated in how inclusive Accra is toward all people. This can mean providing accessible spaces for all people, changing the way Accra recruits and hires, providing fair and impartial treatment so that everyone is given the same outcomes and opportunities, and in general, simply catering to everyone’s different needs.
Inclusion is about the impact. It’s about how people feel and how they are treated at Accra. Each year, Accra conducts a survey to temperature check how its staff feels about DEI efforts across the organization. This helps us develop baselines for where Accra should be and identify any areas of improvement. The ultimate goal with inclusion efforts is to figure out how to make everyone feel a part of one large community.
Why is DEI important?
Accra’s diverse client base serves all 87 counties across Minnesota. We want to ensure our company reflects the communities we serve; and that our staff, community and families all feel included. I feel Accra’s DEI initiatives are working well when I am welcomed and don’t have to leave parts of myself behind to be accepted and invited into the workplace. At Accra, we want to celebrate diverse backgrounds and not make people feel like they have to leave a piece of themselves behind. It’s vital that our team members feel valued, reflected and comfortable being themselves.
What do Accra’s DEI efforts look like?
Recently, Accra has hosted several different expert speakers who shed light on topics such as disability inclusion and awareness. Accra’s staff members have also listened to speakers discuss cultural competency and talk about biases and how to identify them.
The employee engagement survey is crucial for Accra’s DEI committee to ensure they hear about the needs of all employees and what makes them feel most successful and comfortable in the workplace. This is something that the committee will be continuing on an annual basis. The survey helps everyone measure their progress each year and see what we can collectively improve upon. In addition, Accra’s DEI committee frequently temperature checks how its DEI efforts are working during their monthly meetings to gauge how they can improve.
Recruiting and hiring with DEI in mind is extremely important to Accra. We are always making sure that we are not alienating anyone and are using the proper vocabulary when drafting hiring and recruiting materials. Recruiting Specialist Laura Knutson has brought years of experience and expertise to Accra. She has ensured that Accra is attending diversity career fairs and has evaluated Accra’s job descriptions to make them more gender-neutral and inclusive. Laura has continued partnerships with the Hmong community and the State of Minnesota Veterans Community, among others.
I have been a speaker at new hire orientations so that people see a DEI representative right from the get-go as they begin their journey at Accra. During this time, I share ways new team members can get involved in DEI efforts at the company and educate new employees about our upcoming goals.
I value the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” I believe that this is work that we all have to do together, across communities and workplaces. Accra provides services within many different communities, so this provides us with not just an opportunity, but a responsibility to push DEI efforts far for the staff, clients and families. At Accra, we are champions of homecare, but we can also be champions of DEI.