The Women's Issue

When it comes to ensuring America’s national security, count on the women of Los Alamos National Laboratory to get the job done.

By John Scott | February 16, 2021

Womens Issue Feature Opt
“Los Alamos National Laboratory is such a culturally diverse place to work,” says radiation control technician Crystal Alarid, who is pictured on the cover wearing personal protective equipment at the Laboratory’s Plutonium Facility. Like 45 percent of the Laboratory’s female workforce, Alarid is Latina. “I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to work at a place where I feel like I fit in,” she says. “I take pride in being a Latina woman and in showing young Latinas that anything is possible—todo es posible.” CREDIT: Los Alamos National Laboratory

In December 2020, Los Alamos National Laboratory was named as a top company for women researchers by InHerSight, a web-based platform that collects data to measure how well companies support women employees. Taking into consideration factors like flexible work hours, maternity and adoptive leave, salary satisfaction, management opportunities for women, and female representation in leadership positions, InHerSight ranked Los Alamos second on its list of the “20 best research companies to work for” for women.

“Being a tiny, tiny part of something that makes such a difference on a larger scale—national security—is extremely fascinating, rewarding, and, of course, pretty cool.”- Anna Maria Vigil

This comes on the heels of Latina Style magazine selecting the Laboratory as one of the Top 50 Best Companies for Latinas to Work for in the United States in 2020. Los Alamos placed 33rd on the list of companies, all of which were recognized for hiring and promoting high numbers of Latinas and offering mentoring and educational opportunities.

While the Laboratory welcomes these accolades, individual experiences will vary and the Laboratory must continually strive for a fair, diverse, and supportive workplace. That being said, we have come a long way. To glimpse how things have changed for women at the Lab, read “Her-story,” which highlights some of the Laboratory’s trailblazing women since its inception in 1943.

In October 1992, the United States entered a moratorium on further testing of nuclear weapons. Thus began the era of science-based Stockpile Stewardship, a program to ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of stockpiled nuclear weapons, including the conduct of a broad range of effective and continuing experimental programs and the development of significant modeling capabilities with modern‑day supercomputing. In "Bridging Divider," four women share their experiences of transitioning to stockpile stewardship.

And in "Women of weapons science," you can meet 40 women who continue that stockpile stewardship work today. These women are welders, engineers, managers, and everything in between. Some have worked at the Laboratory for only a couple years, others have spent decades here. All of them are inspired and motivated by the Lab’s national security mission. As one woman— engineer Anna Maria Vigil—said, “Being a tiny, tiny part of something that makes such a difference on a larger scale—national security—is extremely fascinating, rewarding, and, of course, pretty cool.”

As you’ll read in this profile of Nancy Jo Nicholas (head of Global Security at Los Alamos) and in this Q&A with Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, (former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA]), this mission transcends the Lab’s Weapons program and reaches all corners of not just the Lab but also the entire NNSA enterprise. “We have a mission and an obligation in NNSA to execute vitally important missions that are truly one of a kind,” Gordon-Hagerty says. “There’s nothing the dedicated men and women of the NNSA labs, plants, and sites can’t take on and manage to be successful at.” 

John Scott
John Scott