Opportunities for women could grow in Atlanta's booming construction industry
Growing up outside of Cincinnati, Erin Jones began thinking of a career in engineering when she was in high school.
“I got into construction because of my physics teacher in high school, who showed me this really cool experiment and I was just was kind of hooked,” said Jones.
She studied civil engineering in college and moved into construction as a career. That’s led to her current role as a project manager for Skanska USA, which is building the Signia by Hilton hotel next to the Georgia World Congress Center and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I deal with primarily the structure — so anything dealing with the structural steel or concrete; deep foundations, underground utilities and demolition, that’s what my role has been here,” said Jones, who now lives in Norcross.
The 40-story hotel is being built on the site of the old Georgia Dome. Jones says that means some of the foundations of the old facility are being reinforced and strengthened and used for the construction of the new hotel.
Construction in Georgia — and across much of the U.S. — is dealing with a shortage of workers. That could mean more career opportunities for women in the industry. Currently, women represent about 10% of construction workers.
“I have been very blessed in my construction career,” said Jones. “I have normally always been around at least one other female, which is nice. On this project, we have three females, which is really amazing. But it’s very sparse and few between, obviously.”
Jones says her experience in the construction business has been good, “we still get the same workload, we still get the same conversations, so not much is different here,” she said. “I think for me, my name is Erin, so a lot of people do get confused with the fact that there’s male ‘Aarons,’ so I think it comes with a little bit of a shock,” Jones said.
Jones encourages girls and young women to pursue a STEM education if it appeals to them.
“We don’t have a lot of females in construction or engineering or any of the STEM programs,” said Jones. “So I would just say if you’re really interested, go at it, stay headstrong, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. Just know that here might be challenges, and you just keep going and keep your head down and keep working as hard as you can.”
Jones says the next step in her career would likely be as a senior project manager. It’s a role in which she would deal more with company ownership and clients.
“There’s opportunities [for women] in every trade and every craft, and you’re starting to see more and more, like your plumbers and your electricians,” said Clay Whitman, who oversees safety at the site of the new hotel. “Some of the concrete folks have two or three women on their crews.”
“It’s an opportunity and a career potential and the money is there, and that’s what the bottom line is — to provide for your family,” said Whitman. “And this is a good business to be in.”