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‘I’ve never met another woman locksmith’: Women fill unconventional roles at MGM Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Janee Mays spends her days making sure employees at MGM Springfield can get in and out of buildings with their key cards. She fixes broken locks and installs new locks and doors.

As the only locksmith at the downtown casino, Mays is pretty busy.

“I love what I do.

I like working with my hands and doing something different every day, and with this job there is always a new challenge,” said Mays, one of many women at MGM Springfield working in casino industry jobs that have typically been held by men.

Mays started as an administrative assistant for the director of security at a casino in Las Vegas more than 20 years ago.

“The locksmith at that casino quit and my supervisor asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said absolutely,” she said.

Mays’ responsibilities include installing locks, programing all the employee IDs for access into the building and more.

She also had the task of rekeying the entire property before it opened, to change the locks over from those that offered access to the construction team.

“I take care of the whole door — from the door closer, to the panic hardware, to the lock and the hinges,” she said.

Mays said of all the casinos she has worked at, none have employed another female locksmith — but the men on the job have always been welcoming.

“I’ve never met another woman locksmith, but it’s a great job.

When I started I didn’t know anything about it so I went to local lock shops and asked all the guys questions and they were tremendous, they helped me out a lot,” she said.

Before the casino opened, MGM Springfield had a goal of hiring women for at least half of all available jobs.

Currently 44.3% of MGM Springfield’s employees are women.

“We are proud of the thousands of jobs we have created in the community and the economic stimulus we are producing,” said Jason Randall, the casino’s director of human resources. “The employees at MGM Springfield reflect our company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as the rich cultural diversity of Springfield and New England.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and information from the U.S.

Department of Labor, the occupations with the highest concentrations of women are in the fields of health care, teaching or caregiving. Among preschool or kindergarten teachers, 98% are women.

The majority of child care workers (96%) and registered nurses (90%) are women.

The jobs with the highest concentrations of men tend to involve traditionally blue-collar fields such as heavy equipment operation and repair or construction, as well as computer and engineering occupations.

For example, roughly 99% of automotive service technicians and mechanics are men, as are 98% of carpenters. About nine-in-ten mechanical engineers and roughly eight-in-ten computer programmers are male, the survey found.

Amanda Antaya, a K-9 security officer at MGM Springfield, walks with her dog Essie. (Don Treeger / The Republican)

Amanda Antaya is one of four K-9 security officers at MGM Springfield; of the group, she’s the only woman.

She spends her days with Essie, a 2-year-old black American Lab.

“Our job is to patrol and secure the entire property with our dogs.

They search for explosives,” she said.

Antaya had a full-time job in the restaurant business and a side business walking dogs when the opportunity came up at MGM.

“I had never really thought about doing something like this, but I love it and can’t imagine not doing it now,” she said.

She said although the other K-9 security officers are men, they all have the same responsibilities.

The job requires a lot of physical labor. At least three hours of her shift every day are spent doing kennel maintenance for Essie and the other three dogs on the property.

“We make sure they are fed and groomed, that their kennels are clean and they have everything they need,” she said. “Men or women can do the job as long as you are willing to work hard, but I have only worked with men in this field.

After kennel maintenance Antaya and Essie spend time training on and off the property. For the rest of the day, they patrol the grounds.

“We have our radios on at all times and if there is a suspicious package or unattended bag we take care of it,” she said.

Antaya said guests love the dogs.

“The dogs make people feel safe. They are very friendly dogs.

I’m sure having them around brightens a lot of peoples days; it does with me,” she said.

Unlike police K-9s, Essie does not go home with Antaya.

She lives on the property with the other three dogs.

“Even with everything we have to do and how busy it can be, the hardest part of my day is always leaving her,” she said.

“I worry about her like if she was my own kid.”

Antaya said even though she misses her, she knows Essie lives comfortably.

“Actually she is pretty spoiled. She goes on field trips and gets along great with the other dogs,” she said.

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Ashley Nash, an inventory control supervisor at MGM Springfield, checks items in a warehouse.

(Hoang ‘Leon’ Nguyen / The Republican)

Ashley Nash is an inventory control supervisor who oversees MGM’s warehouse stock. She supervises two inventory clerks and works with the supervisor of the warehouse staff to make sure every item at MGM — from office supplies to salt and pepper shakers for each restaurant — is accounted for.

“Anything you see in the casino, I touch it in some way. I make sure the cost is correct and the bills get paid,” she said.

“I work with the chefs to cost out all of their recipes, so if they want to make a menu change I make sure the product and the cost is accounted for.”

Nash has a business degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.

She started at an MGM casino in Mississippi as a summer employee, working in the arcade eight years ago.

“After my first summer I knew I wanted to work for MGM full-time,” she said.

Nash worked in the poker room for several years and then moved on to office services, which deals with UPS and FedEx packaging and shipping. Then she got a job in inventory control.

When MGM Springfield opened Nash and her husband, who also worked for MGM in Mississippi, both applied and got positions with the company. An added benefit is that they are now 10 minutes away from Shriners Hospital, where their daughter receives care.

“Back home we were six hours away from the nearest Shriners, so this has been a great move for our careers, but more importantly for our family,” she said.

Although the warehouse has mostly male employees, Nash said she works well with everyone and finds the job challenging — but fun, too.

“I have an office, but I sit at checkpoint in the warehouse so people can come and ask me questions,” she said. “It’s very hands-on.

She credits her former boss Kimberly Blakeslee, one of the only other female inventory control managers at any MGM resort, with preparing her for the new responsibilities.

“She took me under her wing and taught me everything she knew,” Nash said.

Nash works with employees like Brittany Boone, who is the head banquet chef for the downtown casino.

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Banquet chef Brittany Boone prepares a tray of salmon in a kitchen at MGM Springfield. (Don Treeger / The Republican)

A graduate of Manchester Community College with a degree in food service management and culinary arts, Boone learned to cook from her grandmother.

“I used to cook with her when I was a kid and then I took some courses in high school, but it wasn’t until I went to college and started working in the industry that I developed a passion for it,” she said.

Boone worked in chain restaurants, some casual and upscale dining spots, and in a bakery making wedding cakes before becoming the general manager of a Moe’s Southwest Grill.

“I was feeling stagnant in that job and that’s when saw MGM was hiring. I overlooked it many times, but finally I decided to apply,” she said.

She was originally hired as a sous-chef for the employee dining room. She was quickly promoted to head chef of the dining room and, a month ago, she was promoted to head banquet chef.

She supervises six employees.

“The hardest part is not necessarily the cooking, but managing the people and their individual learning styles, work habits and personalities,” she said.

“There’s also a lot of planning and organization that goes into it. You always have to be 10 steps ahead of what’s going on.

While there are some standard menu options, Boone also has room for creativity for events like weddings or galas, where customers might want specific themes or menu items.

“We do all the cooking for all of the functions we have at the casino from breakfast, lunch and dinner to weddings and any special events,” she said.

Boone said while she is thankful for the opportunities she has received at MGM, the industry is still male dominated. In most places she worked, she said, she was the only woman.

“It didn’t bother me because I have a laid back personality and I get along with everyone, but you could tell there was favoritism,” she said.

At one restaurant, she said, she tried to become a manager.

She was told she needed to learn specific skills and fulfill certain requirements — even as men who didn’t have any more experience were earning promotions. “I never thought that I would have the opportunities that I have had with MGM, and this is the first time I can say I really like what I do and who I work for,” she said.

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