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We interviewed Maggie Evancho, Staff Archaeologist and lead of SWCA’s LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), to discuss her environmental consulting career, important changes influenced at SWCA, and why the ERG picked transgender awareness as this year’s Pride Month theme.

Maggie Evancho, Staff Archaeologist out of our Tucson office.

Q: Hi, Maggie, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. Would you like to start by telling us about yourself and your career?

A: I am originally from Richmond, Virginia. This summer is my 20-year anniversary of living in Tucson, Arizona, where I have worked for SWCA’s Tucson office for 18 years. My partner Emily and I have 2 cats, Ziggy & Charlie. I never set out to be an archaeologist, but when I moved to Tucson, I decided to go to college utilizing the Federal Pell Grant. My career focus was going to be photography, but after a prerequisite course in southwest prehistory, I was hooked. I started at SWCA’s archaeology lab cleaning artifacts, entering data, preparing collections for curation, and photographing artifacts for reports. This allowed me to find my course as a southwest archaeologist.  After working as a field archaeologist for many years, I became the archaeology lab manager for the Tucson office and the cultural resources permitting coordinator for our projects in Arizona. 

Q: What does leading the LGBTQIA+ ERG mean to you? ​​​​​​

A: My role as an ERG lead has given me the opportunity to bring awareness and enact change for LGBTQIA+ employees at SWCA. It’s been really inspiring to see how many folks come to our monthly meetings. When I first learned about the ERG, I joined an ERG Pride event and realized quickly that this group was the right fit for me. Pride to me is being confident in who I am as an individual and a lesbian and being aware that it wasn’t always easy to be out and proud. The challenges I faced early in life made me who I am today. 

I’ve developed skills in leading meetings and planning agendas, working with a team to create content and communications, and improving my communication skills as an ERG leader. It’s been awesome meeting LGBTQIA+ folks from across the country that work for SWCA. I work in archaeology and cultural resources management out of Tucson, Arizona. 

Maggie’s archaeology career has brought her to varied landscapes throughout the country; she’s pictured here in North Dakota, Wyoming, and Arizona

Q: How has the group influenced change at SWCA? 

A: We hosted a conversation with a crisis counselor volunteer from The Trevor Project for 2022 Pride month; that was really well-attended, and I think folks really got a lot out of it.  We continue to be a safe space and resource where new (and existing) employees can find comradery and community. 

Q: What goals are you focused on now?

A: We are excited to host a companywide panel focused on the transgender community for Pride 2023. We are also putting together an LGBTQIA+ Field Safety document that can be utilized by all SWCA employees as well as our LGBTQIA+ field staff community.  

I was in the field for so many years prior to coming into this new position, so I have a good grasp on ways that safety training, resources, and procedures can be improved, specific to the experiences of LGBTQIA+ folks. In addition, I have gone through challenges with being the only woman on a construction job site. Years ago, I received a safety award for de-escalating a situation where a person approached my field team in an aggressive manner, including directing homophobic statements at us. We want to influence companywide change and be more proactive about safety in situations like this. It’s the reality for LGBTQIA+ people. 

Q: Would you like to elaborate on why you selected transgender rights as the theme for this year’s Pride Month at SWCA?

A: This year, we thought it important to highlight and stand up for our transgender colleagues and community. There have been unprecedented attacks on trans folks’ rights and their ability to access gender-affirming care, play sports, use restrooms, and in some places, even be open about their identity. Our ERG is fully supportive of working to create change and be a safe space for transgender folks as well as family and friends of trans people.

Q: As #OneSWCA, how can we be supportive allies to LGBTQIA+ colleagues?

A: To be a supportive ally, it’s important to remember that cis-gendered and heteronormative people don’t experience the world in the same ways that members of our LGBTQIA+ community do. Traveling to small towns or being alone in the field can be an uncomfortable experience. It’s important for coworkers to be supportive allies, and for project managers and company leadership to be sensitive and aware of this reality.