“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.”
— Oprah Winfrey
From the time Anne Pfleger was a teenager, she knew she was meant to do important and impactful things to fulfill a greater purpose in her life. Her love of speaking in front of crowds in drama clubs and riding horses as a young equestrian fueled the confidence that her parents had instilled in her. Growing up in a religious household, she was taught lessons of humility and generosity to those in need. “I was raised to believe that if you have the ability to help people, then you do it,” says Anne, whose father was the director of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. As a young adult, she married early and became a mother to a beautiful son. Although she enjoyed being a mother, she found herself trapped in a marriage that made her feel lost and stunted in her growth. “I did a 180 during my marriage,” Anne says. She eventually found the courage to file for divorce with the hopes of a fresh start. Now a single mother, commuting over an hour to work for a trucking company that hauled construction materials, she decided to make her first big move and apply for a job at a local family-owned construction company. “I had originally applied for a receptionist position,” Anne reminisces.
But after a very impressive interview with one of the owners, she was offered a project administration job instead. Anne quickly worked her way up to a senior project administrator where she learned the ins and outs of legal contracts - a great resource and skill that later proved invaluable in her future endeavors. Anne had successfully found her footings as an independent single mom and the construction industry continued to prove to be a good fit for her.
As an avid camper and outdoors type, working in a male-dominated industry came naturally. “Most of my life I’ve had more guy-friends than girl-friends,” says Anne, “I’ve never had a problem connecting with them on-site and I think that’s been helpful in construction, being able to connect to both sides.” Focused on providing for her family, Anne didn’t give much thought to networking. So when her boss brought a networking opportunity to her attention, she didn’t think much of it. Anne recollects, “He had returned from an awards ceremony for the state of Ohio [in 2006] and ran into a marketing director from another company who told him about NAWIC and he said, ‘Here you go. I want you to join this. I think it will be good for you,’ and I have to be honest, when I first joined, I didn’t initially see the value in it.” The meetings were a 45-minute drive from home, and between her full-time job, a part-time job, and taking care of her son, it was a difficult commitment to make.
However, after the persistence of NAWIC’s recruiter and a request to host a meeting in Anne’s town of Findlay, Ohio, Anne found herself at her first meeting. “How do you say no?”, she laughed. “We held the meeting and that was it for me. I immediately connected with the women. I loved being around them and many of them are still a part of my life. The really cool thing is they welcomed my 8-year-old son...He ended up being our photographer and to this day, he still asks about them. They even made an impact on his life.”
Anne embraced the camaraderie within her local chapter. “I was in a rut…[and] trying to get back to where I was,” she says. The encouragement of her fellow members restored her confidence and the familiar feeling from her teenage years that she was put on this earth to do something great. “The members in my chapter supported and inspired me so much that I went back and finished my college degree. They told me ‘you can do anything!’. I graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s in business management. Their stories of moving up in the industry and their encouragement was a big reason why.”
Shortly after graduating, the members asked her to become President of their local chapter. Although plenty busy with her full-time and part-time jobs, Anne decided she was up to the challenge. “I’m almost OCD, not quite but almost,” she laughs, “I am a very organized person. I’m good with time management and can pivot and adjust when needing to prioritize things.”
Becoming President started to repair another part of the girl she once was. Confidence restored, she now was able to fulfill a familiar value of service that had been instilled in her from her upbringing. “It was so inspiring to see, on the region side, all these amazing women in one room,” she recalls. At her first regional conference, she realized that “you can be doing whatever you are doing within your construction career and have this opportunity to serve on a national level.” That revelation “got the bug in me,” Anne says. She eventually worked her way up to Regional Director and began traveling her region which included Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Western Pennsylvania. “I really enjoyed talking to people and bringing their thoughts and concerns to the board.” This love for connecting members continued to fuel her progression within the organization.
She eventually became National Treasurer, then Vice President and now she is NAWIC’s National President. She and her fellow board members have worked tirelessly to make some necessary changes and updates that are already making a big impact on the association. When asked what she is the most excited about, “rebranding and marketing,” she exclaims. This has included a redesign of the logo and a new tagline, "Leading Builders. Building Leaders." as well as the implementation of several taskforces that include general members throughout the organization to help with NAWIC's goals and strategies. “When I was on the campaign trail, the biggest request I received was wanting more communication between National and Local and that members know that they are being heard and can participate. So, that has been one of my main focuses.”
She says that NAWIC has been regarded as the “best-kept secret” for women in the construction industry. Her goal is to connect and collaborate to make it a secret no longer. “It is such a diverse organization. Within no time you can help another member out and connect them to the resources they need,” says Anne. She has also been passionate about keeping an open-door policy.
This approach to her presidency is a celebration and reflection of the kindness she has received from countless members over the years. “I want to be able to be there for any member and help them with whatever they need,” she insists. Just some of the ways Anne is embracing this open-door policy has involved finding the silver lining in the COVID pandemic by increasing face-time through tons of virtual meetups, jumping in and helping a chapter as co-parliamentarian, and personally writing employee support letters for members who are interested in moving up within the association. “It’s really important for employers to support our members, especially if they would like to participate in the regional and national level. I have been very fortunate that my company, Charles Construction, has been extremely supportive over the years.” Yes, that’s right, Anne still works her construction job as well. Having so much on her plate as national president, it’s hard to imagine her working a full-time job, not to mention she still works a part-time job and is co-owner of a remodel business!
Fortunately, there are several transferable skills shared between her many hats, like problem-solving and working towards the goal of building something bigger than herself.
For instance, Anne now works as an estimator for Charles Construction where she works up estimates for steel buildings. “I’ve always been a numbers person and someone who likes to think outside the box. When you’re estimating a construction project, especially metal buildings, you can go in there and play around with the buildings to figure out the best way to build it and the most economically priced way. It’s challenging and I love it.” This approach to problem-solving along with her ambition to step up to challenges allows her to successfully and happily tackle the tasks put in front of her. However, she insists, “it takes all of us. It’s not just me. I have an amazing board that is so on top of things.” By increasing the number of meetings, town halls, and encouraging member engagement, she fully embraces the talents of all the amazing women that surround her. “You may have an idea,” says Anne, “and when we all get together to discuss it, we might think of something better but until we start the conversation, nothing is going to happen.” She has even made an added effort to include men who are anxious to show their support. “They are so supportive now of women getting into the industry.” Happily willing to embrace this and affirm their support, she reports, “one of the main keynote speakers in our upcoming annual conference is a man!” With great enthusiasm, Anne adds, “we are all in this together...Our motto for this year is to ‘Connect, Collaborate, and Construct’ - construct a better industry for everyone.”
All photos courtesy of Anne Pfleger