Never Quit winner helps co-workers have tough conversations on race

By AFSCME Staff ·

In the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, Sona Shah’s mission is to advance racial equity in the workplace.

Shah says her role – equity and inclusion program manager – was created in 2021 in the wake of a national racial reckoning, as city agencies and departments in Texas’ capital felt the need to have tough but necessary conversations on race.

“This past year and a half, we’ve been trying to really do an assessment of what does our culture in our department look like, in order to advance racial equity,” Shah says.

Having conversations in the workplace around racial equity isn’t always easy, Shah says. But advancing racial equity not only benefits city workers, it improves interactions with the public.

“People need to know that it’s OK [to have these conversations], and that you aren’t going to get retaliated against,” Shah says. “Because once we can start having these open conversations with our co-workers, our colleagues that are different from us, then we actually know how to serve the community better.”

For her service to her community, Shah, a member of AFSCME Local 1624, is a winner of our union’s Never Quit Service Award, which recognizes public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better.

Shah is “really, really great at creating work groups and bringing different opinions together, and I think that’s very helpful to our department,” says Kimberly McNeely, Shah’s supervisor.

Never Quit Service Award

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