Allyship at the Labs & Employing Bite-Sized Habits to Stimulate Growth

Sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories

Sandia National Laboratories

Photo courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories.

Sandia National Laboratories
Sandia National Laboratories
May 19, 2024 at 7:58AM UTC

Sandia represents a community of allies. Being an ally means being supportive and inclusive of others. Sandia provides a supportive workplace for all employees, regardless of our differences.  

We got a chance to sit down with Hiral Ghandi, an R&D Mechanical Engineer at Sandia and a trusted ally for her peers. Here’s what she had to say about allyship and how employing bite-sized habits can positively impact our growth in allyship. 

In your own words, what is an ally?

An ally is an individual who shows their support for a minority group.

How can allies support their colleagues without being simply performative?

Ask, listen, do. An ally may want to support an individual in a particular minority group, in which case everyone’s needs are unique to themselves and situational. Understand what their needs and ‘love language’ [per se] are. If an ally wants to support a group at large, try not to nominate a single person to be their representative, rather try to listen in on their community meetings and see where their needs are. The hardest part is turning what you’ve learned into something actionable and habitual, so try to make bite-sized habits that can be expanded upon.

What has been your best learning moment in your journey to becoming an ally?

Working on an extra-curricular activity (building a Pride Parade float) with members of the Sandia Pride Alliance Network (SPAN). Hearing experiences from a variety of people across generations, genders, or who grew up in very different places was edifying. It was also rewarding from an allyship standpoint being able to hear how society has progressed between the generations. 

What do you do in your day-to-day work life (and beyond) to serve as an ally?

One habit that I’m trying to work on is normalizing requests. Sometimes it can be hard for members of minority groups to ask for accommodations, whether that’s correcting pronouns or asking for accessibility options. This can be in the form of being forthright with information (e.g., my own pronouns, where accessibility options are located, etc.), or giving thanks to people who do have to make requests rather than letting it be a floating awkward moment. This is an example of a small bite-sized habit that can be expanded upon.

What is your best advice for other people who want to be better allies?

Allyship is on a spectrum and your level of allyship differs across different groups. I want to say thank you for taking the first step of being cognizant of disparities and any further steps you may have taken beyond that; but remember to seek growth as an ally, too, from time to time.  

Do you have any suggestions for books, podcasts or other forms of media that share advice on being a better ally?

Nothing that comes to mind immediately — but novels can be a relaxing way of informative insight into other peoples’ experiences. 

Does your company have any ally-related programs? If so, could you explain more about them?

Yes, Sandia National Laboratories has a range of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as well as an Inclusion, Diversity, EEO & AA (IDEA) office. The ERGs are based around minorities to build community, as well as provide outreach where all members of the workforce are welcomed. The IDEA office is a functional organization that seeks to encourage innovation through D&I, as well as resolve workplace conundrums. 

More broadly, how does your company foster a culture of equality and fairness?

Sandia is proud to be the home of some of the nation’s top scientists and engineers. Naturally, with such brilliant talent, a lot of our workforce are recognized with external awards. When individuals are awarded by diversity & inclusion groups (e.g. Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Out in STEM, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), etc.), their accolades are celebrated and broadcasted widely. All achievements are recognized which fosters a culture of equality and fairness.

What do you think other companies can learn from how your company handles allyship?

Sandia staff, including our senior leadership, are encouraged to take on D&I goals as part of our annual performance reviews. It places a mindset that allyship can take energy and time, but it is part of our jobs in serving the nation, as well setting a precedence that allyship and growth is for everyone no matter how high up the ladder. 

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