Boeing

Arash Babazadeh

Arash Babazadeh image

Structural Analyst, 787 Program

Pronouns: he/him/his

In his job as a structural analyst for the 787 Continued Operational Safety Program, Arash Babazadeh performs analysis to demonstrate the safety and airworthiness of the 787 aircraft on which he works. He also served as an interim first-line leader for his engineering team, which grew his own skills and allowed him to grow other people’s careers. In everything he does, he collaborates across teams and brings his whole self to work every day.

“Ever since I was an intern, I have always been my authentic self without regret or hesitation,” Arash said. “As I got more involved with Boeing Business Resource Groups (BRG), I continuously participated and hosted inclusive events and networked with the BRGs, which eventually led to leadership opportunities. I served as vice president and am currently the chair of the SoCal Beach Cities chapter of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance.”

Arash advocates for LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation outside of work as well. For example, he participates in annual area pride events including those Boeing sponsors.

“Boeing is continuously improving to promote inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, and we cannot afford to waste a moment,” he said. “Inclusion is our priority, and we need to address any behavior that doesn’t align with that priority. By speaking up, we create an environment that welcomes everyone, and we raise awareness in our workplace and communities.”

Jacky-Vy Chau

Jacky-Vy Chau image

Senior Manager, Airplane Systems Skills, Integration and Processes, Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Pronouns: he/him/his

Jacky-Vy Chau was born in Vietnam, after his grandparents and parents emigrated from China. However, his parents insisted that their children learn Chinese and didn’t allow them to speak Vietnamese at home.

“At first I felt caught between two worlds, but I got used to it,” he said.

Jacky-Vy again experienced the feeling of being an outsider when his family immigrated to Santa Barbara, California, when he was 15. Unable to speak English at first and later with an accent, he was afraid people would make fun of him, so he chose to be quiet. He likewise faced a further obstacle, coming out as LGBTQ+, both in his personal and professional life.

“Growing up in a conservative country, being gay is not OK,” Jacky-Vy said. “I came out to my friends and family when I was 26 years old, but I wasn’t out at work. That was my first or second year at Boeing. I’d heard that if you were out at work, it could have a negative impact on your career growth.”

But his perceptions changed when he participated in the Boeing Asian and Pacific Association’s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program. According to Jacky-Vy, the program both helped him realize his leadership potential and better understand effective communication.

“I realized that I don’t have to use a lot of fancy words, just a simple sentence, to deliver exactly what I want to deliver,” he said. “It made me want to push myself to take on a leadership role to open up more and be a more effective communicator.

“The more I got involved in BAPA, I also realized it was my duty to support the company to help educate people about LGBTQ+. We’re just normal people doing normal jobs. I knew I could make an even bigger impact in a leadership role. If my employees knew they had a gay manager, and there was nothing different than with their previous managers, then I could educate 10 people, and they could go educate 10 people. Multiply that — it’s quite large,” he added.

Jacky-Vy is now a senior manager for electrical design processes and tools in Boeing Commercial Airplanes. He was also recognized as the Chinese Institute of Engineers – USA’s 2020 Asian American Most Promising Engineer of the Year. He believes that if he can achieve his potential, anyone can.

“I just want to be who I am,” he said. “I don’t like labeling. I don’t like using ‘I’m Asian’ as an excuse for what others may believe I’m lacking. I lead by example and action.”

Amelia Chiarenza

Amelia Chiarenza image

Director of Asia-Pacific Region,
International Strategic Partnerships

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Amelia Chiarenza is a leader who is intentional about taking strategic risks to develop high-performing teams and drive business results. As the director of International Strategic Partnerships, a role in which she’s responsible for industrial cooperation programs in the Asia-Pacific region, Amelia leads an internationally diverse team focused on advancing new business through creative industry programs and by working with local industry to support contracts their countries have with Boeing. In each role she has held since joining Boeing in 2009, Amelia has taken pride in the teams she has built and the work they have achieved together.

“Prior to my career at Boeing, my time as an NCAA Division I athlete and coach taught me that being team-oriented means understanding, respecting and allowing space for the different roles that each individual plays,” Amelia said. “I have to tune in to individual needs on the team and, just as much, the group’s needs and the outcomes we want to achieve. It’s about developing as individuals and as a team, together.”

Throughout her career, Amelia has sought new opportunities that challenge her and expand her experience. In every role, Amelia considers how she shows up as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, which can be complicated when traveling to areas that aren’t accepting or supportive.

“If I am visiting a country to speak with a customer about their needs and what Boeing can provide, that is what I am going to make sure drives the conversation,” Amelia said. “I also make sure I am informed about the environment into which I am stepping. It can be a delicate balance in terms of what you put forward and what you let exist in the background.”

To help other LGBTQ+ employees interested in traveling outside of their home regions, Amelia has taken part in a larger Boeing effort to develop travel and safety guidelines specific to LGBTQ+ concerns. She is also an executive sponsor for the Potomac Region chapter of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance and sits on the diversity, equity and inclusion council for Boeing’s Global Sales and Marketing team, of which Amelia is a part. To Amelia, an inclusive environment is critical for people to thrive, and allowing people to thrive is critical for advancing business.

“I view it as my responsibility to create a physically and psychologically safe environment for my teammates and colleagues to thrive,” Amelia said. “We have further to go on the diversity, equity and inclusion journey as a company and a society. I want to be an influential champion along that journey.”

David Dawson

David Dawson image

Business Improvement and Optimization Practitioner, Boeing Defence Australia

Pronouns: he/him/his

Throughout David Dawson’s 19 years with Boeing, many of his roles have focused on finding solutions and ensuring that a problem doesn’t happen again. With experience in data management, IT application, global trade compliance, quality reviews, and business and process improvements, he credits continuous improvement methodology for improving not just business outcomes but the team’s culture and morale, too.

Recently, David began working with a team to identify issues with the racks they use to store aircraft parts. Together, they improved the visual layout and organization of materials the team needed for the aircraft they service. They went beyond just an idea by designing and building a prototype rack that makes organizing, finding and accessing aeronautical parts easier and safer.

“Listening is very important, especially when you’re new to a team and you don’t know much about them or how to help them yet,” David said. “They know their area; they know their stuff. You just need to seek, ask questions and listen to them to understand what they’d like to see changed and what’s most important to them.”

David learned firsthand the value of listening to understand and empower teammates, because he faced challenges to be accepted by others. He recalls experiences early in his career when, because he is a gay man, a leader doubted his management capabilities. Since then, David has seen the company advance its equity, diversity and inclusion efforts in meaningful ways, and he continues pursuing his passion of educating teammates about the LGBTQ+ community. He is now chair of the newly formed Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific chapter of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance Business Resource Group.

“We started this chapter to help provide an inclusive environment for employees in this region, where they feel respected at work,” David said. “As a company, we’re not perfect, but we’re committed to improving. I know Boeing can be the best, most diverse and inclusive aerospace company, and it starts with building understanding. The more people understand, the more they can help make a more inclusive workplace and world.”

Jessie Dias

Jessie Dias image

Business Career Foundation Program Participant

Pronouns: he/him/his

Jessie Dias has been part of a lot of teams at Boeing in a short amount of time. That’s because in 2019, he joined the Business Career Foundation Program, an early-career rotational program that helps develop future leaders through rotation assignments spanning business and finance organizations. Before joining the rotational program, he was a Boeing intern for several years.

“When I joined the corporate world, I was hesitant and skeptical about how my identity may be perceived by others,” Jessie said. “I would ask myself, ‘How are my colleagues going to react?’ This corporate ‘coming out’ is a struggle for many LGBTQ+ professionals, especially for individuals who are not able to work in an inclusive environment. However, throughout all my moments of doubt and uncertainty, I came to work each day presenting my authentic self. I have also been privileged that every team I have supported at Boeing has fostered a welcoming environment for me to do so.”

As an active member of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance and the current chair for the Business Resource Group’s chapter in El Segundo, California, where he’s located, Jessie has worked hard to create an environment friendly to the LGBTQ+ community — both inside and outside Boeing.

“I encourage and support our LGBTQ+ members to speak out on their experiences to individuals who may not completely understand their perspective as an individual within the community,” Jessie said.

“Outside of Boeing, I volunteer my time (when able to) mentoring LGBTQ+ youth on breaking down barriers and bringing their whole self to a corporate environment. Essentially, I help them become prouder and more comfortable with their identity so they don’t feel the need to hide it during any stage of their life or career.”

Trinity Abigail Downing

Trinity Abigail Downing image

Technical Designer, Vertical Lift

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Trinity Abigail Downing is working on the future of vertical lift. As a technical designer, she’s developing mechanical parts that will help fly DEFIANT X, the aircraft that a Sikorsky-Boeing team is entering for the U.S. Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft competition.

In addition to working on engineering development programs, she closely works with Boeing’s Business Resource Groups, including the Boeing Employees Ability Awareness Association and Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA), and the Boeing Employees Transgender Association, a subgroup of BEPA that she established.

As a veteran, a transgender woman and a person living with post-traumatic stress disorder, Trinity often shares her story as well as helpful resources with others so they can become better allies. Part of sharing her story is talking about her life after her transition from male to female and from military to civilian life, answering questions people may have.

“So many people are afraid that a person is somehow different when they transition from one gender to another,” Trinity said. “They are in some ways, but not in the important ways. They are still the very same people that we know and care about.

“By sharing my story of transitioning out of the military, I’ve learned it helps other veterans to come to terms with their own demons. Some also use my story as a tool to help explain to their family members what they’re feeling and may not have the exact words to describe themselves.”

Nicolette Gan

Jacky-Vy Chau image

Research Engineer, Boeing Research & Technology-Australia

Pronouns: she/her/hers, they/them/theirs

Dr. Nicolette Gan is a research engineer at Boeing Research & Technology in Melbourne, Australia. As a member of the Boeing Australia Pride Working Group, she has also worked to stand up the first international chapter of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA) across Australia.

“Growing up in Singapore, I was very different, and I knew it. I didn’t see anyone like myself pursuing math and science,” Nicolette said. “Engineering has been a passion of mine since I was 6 years old. A lot of LGBTQIA+ people were successful in the arts in Singapore, but I hadn’t seen LGBTQIA+ in engineering. I thought, let me be the first one.”

Although Nicolette has always been determined and unashamed about who she is, an incident when she was a teenager acted as a catalyst for pursuing her engineering dreams.

“I went to church with my mom one day when I was 17 years old, and this pastor said that all LGBTQIA+ people should go to conversion therapy,” she recalled. “I walked out. My mom followed me. She didn’t say that she agreed or disagreed; we just kept quiet.

“That incident really motivated me to do my best and to do a lot of things in life. I wanted to be an engineer, and I wanted to be the best engineer I could be and pursue it to the
highest level.”

At 18, Nicolette moved to Melbourne, where she met a female Boeing engineer who further inspired her career trajectory.

“She worked at Boeing and was successful and happy living her life this way. I aspired to be like her. She motivated me to pursue my PhD in the field of microfluidics, actually,” she said.

Her doctoral research included a novel cooling system for power electronic devices, which is being incorporated into a project designing devices with a super microchip. Following her PhD studies, Nicolette joined Boeing Research & Technology-Australia to further my skills. She also found herself in the company of equally driven and accepting teammates.

“Working with engineers, they don’t see me as different. We’re logical and systematic. We’re here to solve problems, not judge people. So I’ve been quite lucky in that way,” she said. “I hope everyone views me as an engineer regardless of gender or how I identify.”

Nicolette also works to inspire the next generation of diverse, determined engineers.

“Since I only saw one person like me very late into my education, I want to present some sort of visibility to younger people or even people who aren’t ready to come out yet, to see another person living a fulfilling life and not too worried about what people think or society says,” she said. “Earlier this year, I went back to Singapore and reached out to my all-girls high school as part of my STEM outreach. I shared my story to inspire more young women to pursue math and science.

“I’m not a girl with long hair, I look kind of different, and I’m pursuing engineering at a good company. I can make a huge difference just by being my authentic self and bringing my unique lens to this important work.”

David (Dáithí) Horan

David (Dáithí) Horan image

Design Engineer, Boeing Ireland

Pronouns: he/him/his

David (Dáithí) Horan helps airplanes get a new lease on life — modifying those owned by leasing companies. When a leasing customer moves an airplane from one airline to another, David and his team update the avionics and cabin interiors to match the new airline’s configurations. One of his prouder moments was when he and his mentor designed an electromagnetic interference test for a 787 Dreamliner that would receive a new business-class suite. The test would help ensure the updated electrical wires didn’t interfere with the airplane’s safety- and flight-critical systems.

“I’d been working with the company less than a year, and I really wanted to get involved in testing, so my mentor said he’d work through the test design process with me,” David said. “After the regulatory agency reviewed the test I’d designed, they had no comments or tweaks. Having our work recognized for having such high quality was a really proud moment for me and the team.”

Before David joined the design team in Ireland, he spent a few months as part of an extended internship in Seattle supporting the 777X team. While in Seattle, he enjoyed helping test the integrated airplane systems and also got involved in the local chapter of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA) Business Resource Group.

“At the start of my internship in Seattle, we went to the Pride parade, and that’s where I met some of my best friends within the other interns,” David said. “Seeing some of the diverse organizations — like the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance, Boeing Black Employees Association and Boeing Women Inspiring Leadership — you just understand it’s a more inclusive culture. You feel you can be yourself and share who you are within the company.”

David identifies as a gay man and came out when he was a teenager but can still find it difficult to come out in the workplace. Personal decisions around timing and relevancy, along with a lingering fear that a teammate might not be supportive, contribute to the difficulty. David is glad BEPA now has a chapter in Europe, because he thinks it’ll help him have conversations with his teammates around LGBTQ+ topics.

“If I see my teammates are supportive of the BEPA chapter, that would really help me bring my whole self to work,” David said. “If a teammate can show they’re open or supportive — even in the smallest of ways, like a banner in their email signature or a sticker at their desk — that could change the life of someone else on the team, just knowing they have an ally.”

Shayla Hufana

Shayla Hufana image

Senior Graphic Designer, Creative & Digital Team, Communications Management Services

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Meet the designer of Boeing’s Pride webpages: Shayla Hufana. As the user interface designer and art director, Shayla worked on the look and feel of the Pride pages. She’s also designed other Boeing webpages, including the Confident Travel Initiative website providing science-based information for people making air travel decisions during COVID-19. In addition to webpages, her work can be seen in organization identity systems, animations on Boeing social media channels, video projects, signage systems, event materials, merchandise in the Boeing Store and more. In all her projects, Shayla seeks to “modernize, energize and humanize” communications. For instance, Shayla helped do something a little different to recognize the longest 787 Dreamliner delivery flight using sustainable fuel. Instead of sharing the typical delivery photo on social media, Shayla designed a 10-second GIF of the animated airplane making its delivery journey — a new approach that captured more attention than the delivery photos shared previously.

“My job is to bring innovative, creative solutions to problems and push ideas further,” Shayla said. “I want to take something that’s good and help make it great.”

Shayla brings that energy to all her projects, even during tumultuous times. She acknowledges it was scary working and being pregnant during COVID-19 and seeing continued biased and racist acts toward Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. But it’s led her to take actions to support and empower others. She’s part of the executive board of the Boeing Black Employees Association (BBEA), and outside of work, she’s organized a new forum series for her professional association to have open discussions about how to empower and be empowered by others — something she was inspired to do after attending similar forums held by her creative team, the BBEA and the Boeing Asian and Pacific Association.

“It was so motivating to see people having those uncomfortable discussions, because it makes you feel like a community when you can talk like that,” Shayla said.

Shayla is making an effort to be more open about herself as a way to help inspire and motivate others, but she admits it hasn’t been easy. She recalls that growing up in an Asian family, she was taught to be strong yet silent about personal differences or hardships, and this affected how open she felt she could be with her family.

“With my parents, with my larger family, I felt like I always had to do really well at school or work so that when I was fully out and open, they would still be proud of me, respect me and see me for who I am,” Shayla said.

It took some time for her immediate family to become supportive after coming out to them, and although her extended family never openly told her they had a problem with Shayla being part of the LGBTQ+ community, some of Shayla’s and her wife’s close extended family members declined to be part of their same-sex wedding or chose not to attend. The lack of support hit Shayla hard, and although she was going through a difficult time, she felt she had to put her emotions aside and stay positive for her family, teammates and friends. But she’s becoming more open about her story.

“Sharing your own story, including your hardships, that’s brave, and I want to teach my son to not be afraid to share his whole self,” Shayla said. “I can’t speak for everyone, but being Asian and then part of the LGBTQ+ community, sometimes you feel you have to hide parts of what you’re going through because people don’t always understand. Sometimes you have to have difficult discussions, but sharing your own story helps others to know they’re not alone and not to worry about what other people think.

“When I decided to bring my whole self to work at Boeing, I knew that some people may not see past my differences to my hard work or talents, but it was the best feeling when I decided to let that all go,” Shayla continued. “I felt free, strong and ready to accomplish each project with pride.”

Syed Jawad

Syed Jawad image

Senior Project Manager, Business Operations, Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Pronouns: he/him/his

 

Jawad is helping to open some special doors. In his work on VC-25B — otherwise known as the next Air Force One — he’s leading the project team that’s designing and producing specialized mechanisms to help open and close the aircraft doors using built-in stairs. These doors are unique to the VC-25B aircraft compared to other 747-8s, the Boeing commercial airplane on which VC-25B is based.

“It sounds simple, but it’s quite complicated,” Jawad said. “I work with an amazing team — manufacturing engineers, industrial engineers, supply chain partners, so many more — and we all share the credit for how much has gone into this project, and we support each other to speak up, raise issues and work together to find solutions.”

That courage to speak up has played a role in Jawad’s LGBTQ+ journey as well. When he came out to his family while in college, they at first didn’t believe him. That disbelief eventually turned into an ultimatum: either leave his life in Chicago to move to St. Louis with his parents or stay in Chicago and be on his own. Not having the financial means to support himself, Jawad went with his parents.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Jawad said. “During that time, I came to better terms with myself, I educated myself more about the community and learned more about resources to help. I made friends within the LGBTQ+ community. Had I not moved back with them, I wouldn’t have met my husband.”

Jawad is proud of who he is and works to ensure others are comfortable expressing who they are, too. He has been very involved in the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA). He served as membership coordinator, networking chair, vice president and president of the St. Louis chapter before he moved to Chicago, where he became president of the local BEPA chapter. Since then, he has moved to Portland, where he led the launch of BEPA Portland and now serves as the chapter’s chair.

“I am open about who I am — all of me — because it helps breaks down barriers and de-stigmatize this part of me,” Jawad said. “Also, it further enables me to serve as a resource for people who don’t know what their next steps are in terms of coming out. Some teammates have reached out to BEPA and asked for help on how to support their children who identify as LGBTQ+, and it feels so fulfilling when things like that happen. It makes it all worthwhile.”

Crystal Nicholson

Crystal Nicholson's image

Communications and Dispatch Manager, Global Security Operations Center

Pronouns: she/her/hers

 

 

Crystal Nicholson, a communications and dispatch manager with Global Security Operations Center, in Mesa, Arizona, grew up in Flagstaff. She spent her youth on the slopes as a ski racer and later a ski coach, Grand Canyon river guide and ski patroller.

“Everyone up on that mountain had watched me grow up. I never had a problem fitting in,” she said.

Crystal started volunteering as a firefighter and then joined Boeing as a firefighter in Mesa. While she loved it, she found obstacles to overcome.

“The fire service is very male-dominated. Being a woman in the fire service isn’t always embraced. Being a gay woman in the fire service, doors aren’t always open for you,” she said, adding that she had reservations about coming out at work as well. “I didn’t know how I would fit into an environment like this. Was Boeing accepting? What would my teammates think? It was hard enough being a woman; why give someone one more reason not to accept you? If personal stuff came up, I would change the subject.”

After two and half years in Mesa, Crystal transferred to Seattle, where she found it easier to open up. “I wasn’t the first gay woman and there was no reason to hide it,” she said. “Having a network of women to reach out to and seeing it was accepted made it easier.”

However, when her grandmother became ill in 2017, Crystal decided to return to Arizona to be closer to family and took a position as a training officer in Mesa. She once again found herself struggling to fit in. But after attending that year’s Diversity Summit, she started to see her place in Boeing’s aspiration for greater diversity.

“The messages really resonated with me: If you want diversity to be successful, you need to be a part of it. You can sit on the sideline asking those questions, or you can start to immerse yourself in it and help the company move the needle,” she said.

Crystal became involved in the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA) Mesa chapter, for which she is now the president. She received support to include the Mesa site’s firetrucks in Mesa’s Pride parade for the first time, which has inspired other chapters to reach out to their fire departments to engage with them as well. She also met with senior leaders to discuss how the Boeing fire service could become more diverse.

“After that discussion, I started to hear the message of diverse hiring more and see more conscious efforts to get more women into the fire service,” she said. “Adding diversity to our team makes us stronger and better.”

Her focus on diversity extends beyond her involvement with BEPA. Crystal is now involved with Boeing’s Racial Equity Task Force, a long-term think tank that helps the company advance racial equity in innovative ways. Crystal credits her involvement in BEPA and the Racial Equity Task Force with helping her find her place at Boeing, build networks of people to reach out and develop herself, and inspire other people to get involved.

“It feels great to know how I can help and be aware of other people who may be struggling too,” she said. “Diversity can’t be the responsibility of one team and it can’t be lip service.
It has to be people buying into it, taking ownership and acting on it. That’s the only way
it works.”

Shay Paredes

Shay Paredes image

Lead Software Developer, Boeing Advanced Manufacturing

Pronouns: she/her/hers

As an aerospace engineering major in college who transitioned to computer science halfway through her career, Shay Paredes believes it is never too late to find what truly inspires happiness and make a change. As much of the world spent last year navigating unforeseen changes brought on by COVID-19, Paredes’ changes in 2020 included living in four different places in three different states.

In 2020, Paredes also came out as transgender.

After spending her early teens “feeling different,” at 17 Paredes “knew.” In college, a health care professional convinced her she was experiencing mental health issues instead of helping her understand that she was transgender.

“I suppressed myself for the next 12 years and struggled consistently every couple of years,” Paredes said.

Last year, as communities quarantined, Paredes finally became the person she always knew she was.

“I transitioned in early 2020, right as COVID was ramping up, which made getting gender-affirming care quite difficult,” Paredes said. “By the time I transitioned ‘at work’ in August, my manager and teammates were remarkably supportive.”

Paredes says her productivity increased because she could finally bring her whole self to work, something that was previously difficult. The support of her team meant that she no longer had to endure the daily mental toll created by living two lives.

“I became a better teammate and employee because I could finally be entirely present with my team,” Paredes said. “Also, I no longer had to go through the ‘psychological whiplash’ of switching back and forth between who I was at work and who I was in my private life.”

Paredes taps into her experience to support the LGBTQ+ community at home and at work. At home, her expertise with the science surrounding transgender topics and navigating insurance to get gender-affirming care helps other transgender individuals with whom she connects in online support groups.

At work, Paredes is on the Boeing Portland Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Council and a board member of the Portland chapter of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance Business Resource Group.

Paredes helps Boeing teammates become better allies to the LGBTQ+ community by encouraging co-workers to educate themselves and others about transgender issues. “The more society understands our community and the issues that we face and the less false information that is circulated, the more accepted our community will be as a whole,” Paredes said.

Though inclusion is year-round, Paredes sees Pride Month in June as a perfect time to better understand how to support fellow LGBTQ+ teammates. While noting that there may be some who have yet to “come out,” she hopes that people will show willingness as allies of the community. Paredes encourages teammates, “show your support, stand up to bigotry, and let others know that they are safe with you as an ally.”

Marvi Matos Rodriguez

Crystal Nicholson's image

Design Practices Director, Engineering Strategy and Operations

Pronouns: she/her/hers

 

 

Dr. Marvi Matos Rodriguez, director of Engineering focused on Design Practices working for Engineering Strategy and Operations in Seattle, grew up in Jayuya, a town in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Her family had a clinical lab where she grew up using her mother’s microscope and lab supplies. She began helping at the lab at age 11, and after her mother hired a computer engineer to work on their network systems, Marvi realized engineering was the career path she wanted to pursue, too.

“In the U.S., there’s a stereotype that if you’re female, you’re not supposed to be good at math,” she said. “This is not true in Puerto Rico. I kicked butt at math, and I was proud of it.”

Marvi studied chemical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico and earned her doctorate in chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She was one of the few women in her program, which inspired her STEM outreach to young women. She joined Boeing in 2010, where she recruited at her alma mater and presented STEM to schools in her hometown.

With an enterprisewide team, Marvi now works to consolidate Boeing’s design practices, lessons learned, recommendations and mandates in engineering. And on the homefront, she experienced a personal transition and family challenges that helped her guide her teams through collective transitions and changes.

“At my desk, I have a Puerto Rican flag and a rainbow flag,” she said. “Between graduate school and now, my family experienced a transition. We went from a ‘typical’ family to an LGBTQ+ family.

“My family’s transition was challenging. Some people did not accept or understand what we were going through, and they left our lives, including people I grew up with,” she added. “But the experience made me stronger and more compassionate, and it helped me better manage changes at work and help teams embrace new beginnings. When you go through such profound, tough experiences, it gives you an edge.”

Marvi said that a lifetime of going from being the majority to the minority and breaking stereotypes has helped her navigate through those experiences.

“I just don’t belong in any specific box. You might have a Puerto Rican box, and then the form asks you if you’re white. I’m like, I don’t know. My family and my heritage are spectrums of color,” she explained.

“For LGBTQ+, it’s the same thing. So what am I? Can I just check one box for happy? Life is complicated. I am a Hispanic, Puerto Rican woman in leadership, a jíbara* from Jayuya, but I don’t belong in boxes. And that is redefining and liberating.”

*Jíbara is a term used in Puerto Rico that refers to people who live in the countryside.

Aro Royston

Crystal Nicholson's image

Graphic Artist, Global Sales and Marketing

Pronouns: he/him/his

 

 

Aro Royston, a member of Boeing’s Racial Equity Task Force and a graphic artist who works with Global Sales and Marketing in St. Louis, said he always felt male growing up. But it wasn’t until two years into his Boeing career that he began transitioning.

“When I got to Boeing, I realized what transgender actually was,” he said. “Once I found out about it, there was no going back. There was no way I could live without doing it. It was a very scary time. You’re giving up everything you know to go into the unknown. I was terrified what my family would think; I was terrified what my co-workers would think.”

Teammates pointed Aro toward Employee Assistance Program resources, through which he found a therapist who worked with transgender employees. He also learned about the company’s Gender Transition Plan. A Global Equity, Diversity & Inclusion specialist helped him set up a plan and timelines and then held a meeting with Aro’s team to explain that he would be transitioning, when it would occur and that he would legally be male at work.

“It was such a comfort to know someone was there, advocating for me and helping prepare my team to accept me as I fully am,” he said.

Aro was also concerned about how his transition would affect his mother’s work life, since she also works at Boeing.

“I wanted to make sure they would treat my mom the same way — that no one would go up to her asking questions,” he said. “They sent out a note to both of our teams’ organizations, saying that there is an employee who transitioned and will now use male pronouns. So everyone was aware.”

Aro says he was nervous about his first day at the office after he officially transitioned. He dressed for the occasion, wearing a dress shirt, vest and tie. He found his team extremely supportive.

“I think people genuinely saw me for the person I was: I was good at my job, I was good with people, and nothing had changed,” he said.

“Today, a lot of people don’t see me as transgender. I am finally who I am, and the hard part is looking in the rear-view mirror. I just want to move forward.”

He admits that one of his internal struggles now is being an advocate, but he has faced this challenge head-on. He serves on the enterprise board of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance and as a member of the Boeing Employees Transgender Association community group and Boeing’s Racial Equity Task Force, a long-term think tank that helps the company advance racial equity in innovative ways.

“It is easier to walk in the shadows than bring attention to it. But it’s important for me to be vulnerable in order to help others,” he said.

“We celebrate Pride Month, which commemorates riots and protests and the early efforts of those who stood up for equal rights. We celebrate the courage of those who stand up to the injustice of police brutality and of those taking a stand and being proud of who they are,” he added. “A lot of Black transgender women were instrumental in starting our equality movement. The recent events have inspired me to stand in my authenticity — in my Black-ness and my trans-ness. It took me a long time to love myself. So I stand proud, and I love seeing other people stand up and be proud of who they are, too.”

Palash Waghmare

Palash Waghmare image

Programmer/Analyst, Flight Sciences, Product Systems India

Pronouns: he/him/his

As a programmer and an analyst, Palash Waghmare is an integral liaison between Flight Sciences, Product Systems and Boeing Research & Technology-India teams. By understanding the needs of each team, he can help design the information technology products engineers require to simulate airflow around airplanes. His efforts to understand the needs of others also extend outside of work.

“Especially in a conservative society like India, LGBTQ+ people and minorities are still topics of taboo, encompassing a lot of misconceptions,” Palash said. “Coming from a minority community myself and having witnessed blatant discrimination and misogyny, I naturally strive to spread awareness about minorities and how people can learn and sensitize themselves through social media and other resources.”

At university, Palash became involved in student organizations that actively supported the LGBTQ+ community and worked to abolish Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized same-sex relations in India until it was overturned in September 2018. Palash credits his involvement with those organizations with broadening his awareness of others’ stories and becoming a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

“I believe acknowledging that one lacks awareness and striving to identify unconscious biases are good starting points for one to grow as an ally,” Palash said. “It is imperative in forming an inclusive environment and enabling people to bring their best and most productive selves to work.”

Palash has continued to strengthen his allyship at work in close engagement and partnership with Nandini Sarkar (she/her/hers), the Global Equity, Diversity & Inclusion leader in India. Since 2019, Palash has participated in several events outside the company as a Boeing India representative, including the RISE (Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity) conferences hosted by Pride Circle in India and the Out & Equal Workplace Summit. He acknowledges that many people are still uncomfortable discussing LGBTQ+ inclusion, and he encourages them to take small steps toward allyship, such as looking for diversity and inclusion resources at work. At Boeing, Palash points to the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA) Business Resource Group as a good resource for his teammates.

In light of the first-ever Pride Month celebration events being held by Boeing in India, and the launch of the BEPA India chapter on June 23, 2021, Palash is confident that more employees will start their journey toward allyship.

“Boeing has the right tools and willingess to make a more inclusive workplace, but this important work starts with each teammate,” Palash said. “We need all hands on deck here.”