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