Anne Marie Almasi got her start in the construction business when she was 20 years old — and nine months pregnant.
The company, Almasi Contractors, belonged to her husband's family, and her father-in-law pulled her into the business after she'd already taken maternity leave from another job at the state Board of Education.
“I don't know what my father-in-law saw in me. I don't know exactly how it happened,” she said with a laugh. “I really have racked my brain about that.”
Almasi's baby came 22 days later, which gave her a bit of time to get settled in the new job, where her first role was to maintain the company's ledger and handwrite addresses on all invoicing. She took a brief maternity leave when her daughter finally came, though now she can't remember how long she was away.
What she does remember is that she never fully left.
“When you are involved in a family business, it's 24/7, whether (you're) physically there or not,” Almasi said in an e-mail.
As the Woodbridge-based company grew and expanded, Almasi, too, has advanced. Now she is the president of Almasi Companies, a side business she launched in 2002 specializing in soil remediation and utility installation, and oversees all aspects of day-to-day operations. Her daughter, the one Almasi was pregnant with when she first started, is now nine months pregnant and coming to work at the family business every day.
Although her story is one of tremendous success, Almasi said the journey to that point was tough, in large part because of her gender. For much of her 38 years in construction, she has been a woman in a man's world, she said.
“If I quoted some of the things that the men said to me, that wouldn't be nice,” Almasi said. “Until they learned there was substance behind the appearance, it was difficult.”
Almasi was in good company within the walls of her family's business. But outside the office was a different story. During the early part of her career, Almasi said she often looked up during meetings to find that she was the lone woman in attendance.
“Has that changed in the past five years, maybe 10 years? Absolutely. I'm still the minority, but maybe there will be 20 other women in the room,” Almasi said. “But you have to really know your stuff to stay in the room and get the work.”
Almasi said decades in the business have earned her the respect of her male peers. Her company now pulls in just under $10 million in annual revenue, with 30 full-time employees. Now that her status is firmly cemented, Almasi said she has turned her attention to helping the next generation of women in construction.
Almasi is a member of the New Jersey chapter of Professional Women in Construction, a national networking organization for women in her field. And she's partnered with the Woodbridge Chamber of Commerce to create the Women's Leadership Connection, which will offer a speaker series to teach women about goal-setting and designing a plan for success.
The first event will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Colonia Country Club, in the Colonia section of Woodbridge.
“My goal,” she said, “is to really educate the women in construction so that maybe I can give them some tips on how to be recognized and not go through what we went through — to go out in the field and be treated the same as men.”
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