The Meaning and Importance of DEI

Interview with Danya Perry

With the first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Conference (DEI) coming up, I sat down with Danya Perry to talk about the meaning behind DEI and how Danya is working each day to bring our community together. As many of you know, Danya is part of the Wake County Economic Development team and is our equitable economic development manager. The intention of this role is to help unite all members of the community during a time of rapid growth. Growth often means a stronger economy, more dynamic business environment, and increased opportunities for prosperity. However, there is a need to be intentional in planning how growth affects all demographics and this is where the culture of diversity, equity, and inclusivity comes in.

 Jen Miller: As you know, the first DEI conference is coming up. You’ve been working closely with Raleigh Chamber CEO Adrienne Cole and the taskforce to tailor the content so it is meaningful and action-driven. What can we expect at the first annual DEI Conference on August 22? And what do you want people to walk away thinking?

 Danya Perry: This will be an amazing opportunity to learn from professionals across all industries who are invested in diversity, creating a culture of equity, and removing barriers to ensure inclusion. The goal of the conference is to bring our regional business community together to have a larger conversation about how we embrace DEI in the workplace and carry our learnings out into the world.

 In addition, we want to make sure those who are starting out on this DEI journey can get connected to people who have done it, understand it, and have a plan for continuous improvement. This conversation is really about going from good to great. Wherever you are in your DEI journey, we want to make sure you are having the right conversations. We are hoping this conference inspires and motivates for positive change in the workplace.

 Jen Miller: Diversity and inclusivity (D&I) is an important topic in many workplaces today. What made you include the “E” for equity?

 Danya Perry: The decision to include the “E” for equity comes from the movement to make this conversation all inclusive. All should feel welcome. And, it’s important to note that equity is also about creating equal opportunities for all. While working with our taskforce to develop content for the conference, we’ve been saying “the ‘E’ is the bridge between D&I.” Equity is the foundation of a DIVERSE and INCLUSIVE culture. By adding equity into the conversation, we can begin breaking down the barriers and thinking of equity as a pathway for all people.

 Jen Miller: In your role on the Wake County Economic Development team as the equitable economic development manager, what are you focused on? And what do you hope the outcome of the DEI Conference will be?

 Danya Perry: My focus is to be intentional and understand where the equity gap exists within our community. The first step in understanding that is to solicit insight, listen, learn, and then act. Our impacted communities of emphasis are helping me understand the challenges and inequities that exist. As a reminder, communities of emphasis are people from all different backgrounds who have different life experiences, cultures, norms, abilities, and social status. This is not just about one group of people. We are looking at best practices from other communities to determine potential pathways for effective programs, policies, and practices. There are so many people within this community that are already working on economic mobility - we need to lean on each other. The DEI Conference is really just the first step in this journey. We are bringing the community together to start the conversation, discuss the importance of integrating DEI into your workplace, and give you the tools you need to foster a culture that gives everyone a chance to thrive. 

 We look forward to seeing everyone on Aug. 22 at the Raleigh Marriott City Center!


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