By Jillian Wright
The word “ally” isn’t one Nicki takes lightly.
“I don’t think it’s something you can claim yourself to be,” she said. “The people you’re supporting determine whether you’re an ally.”
Currently a senior contracts manager supporting the Combat Systems and Mission Readiness division, Nicki has worked at Northrop Grumman for more than 11 years. Both in and outside of work, she strives to be sociologically mindful and enjoys exploring her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2020, for example, she began co-hosting “A Different Truth,” a podcast focusing on social justice.
“With any marginalized group, I’m interested in understanding how we got there, how folks are treated, what’s usually behind any sort of inequity and how we address our biases,” she said.
As a “lifelong learner,” Nicki decided to expand her focus beyond racial and social justice issues, becoming involved in the LGBTQ+ community last year when one of her daughters came out at age 15.
“When she came out, we were very open with her and said ‘We love you, nothing will ever change that, and we accept you for who you are,’” she said. “I owed it to her to really understand and be able to affirmatively say how I want to be part of this community.”
Nicki, her husband and three daughters had been working to identify and deconstruct some of their beliefs and biases, which helped them to openly discuss this new experience as a family.
“We all have biases, so you have to be able to step back and take a hard look introspectively to determine what biases you hold, and recognize when they come out,” she said. “It was really great just to talk about the things we’re learning as her parents to support our kids becoming their best individual selves. At the root of it all is our love for one another.”
To help support her daughter, Nicki became a member of the company’s PrIDA employee resource group, and officially joined the board this year as the Northern Virginia chapter chairperson. This community has become a “safe space” for her, and she has grown to see her PrIDA board colleagues as friends through open dialogue.
“The conversations we’re able to have as they’re sharing their experiences about what it’s like in the workplace gives me some insight so I can appreciate where my daughter is and what she may be going through or go through in the future,” she said. “It helps me to be a better mom to have people in my life helping my husband and I understand how to support her.”
One of the biggest takeaways Nicki has learned as an ally is that while it’s important to educate yourself, it’s also important to remain a lifelong learner rather than try to understand everything at once.
“There’s this pressure we put on ourselves to have all the answers, and we don’t have to do that,” she said. “It’s so important to remain teachable.”
For those striving to become allies, Nicki recommends speaking out to amplify marginalized voices.
“Our voice lifts theirs up, so use your voice in a way that empowers them and puts the spotlight on them,” she said. “If I can give a voice to those I’m advocating for, and encourage others to advocate, then that’s a step in a right direction.”
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