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Your Path Is Your Own — A Word From Erin Turner

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My construction career began in the military.

I was an Engineer Assistant (MOS 1361) in the Marine Corps. The female population in the Marine Corps is about 6%, but drops to below 1% in the engineering specialties. I felt as if I had to work twice as hard to earn half the respect. A couple of key phrases I remember hearing were, "You’re pretty smart for a female,” and, "You going to be able to handle all that?” or, "Why are you being so mean? People would like you more if you were nicer.” These were not things I heard spoken to my male counterparts. However, once earning someone's respect, it was something I could rely on. I had proven my mettle.

After the military, I worked as a CAD drafter (a skill I learned in the Marine Corps) for a little while before determining I needed to go back to school. In school I would guess about 10% of my classmates were female. I really didn’t notice a delineation between the males and females, other than it was nice when partnered with females on group projects. We tended to be better with time management and began assignments long before they were due, where as a lot of males waited until the last minute. As a single mother of two obtaining my degree, time management was critical.

Following my time in school, I began work in the commercial mechanical construction industry. Sometimes I still hear those same phrases I heard while in the military, but with less frequency over time. Additionally, I feel that my crews have come to respect me and will stick up for me  more often than I even would for myself.

I've noticed that a lot of women in this workforce come from a family background in construction. I probably would never have thought about construction had the military not assigned me to my occupation. I try to encourage young girls that you can be something other than a teacher or nurse, still make a livable wage, and love what you do. Currently, one of my daughters is in an engineering program at Virginia Tech. I’ve always tried to impress upon both of my children that hard work pays off, and not to worry about what others think. This mentality is not only something I’ve learned while working in the construction industry, but one that has served me very well.


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