We know women have traditionally been a minority in the concrete industry. While the numbers may have been small, it's encouraging to discover how women have been involved our industry's development.

I've been perusing the archives of Concrete Construction magazine. This year is the 50th anniversary of Concrete Construction, so we've been reminiscing about the concrete industry's history. I found this item from the January 1957 issue. While the reporter did feature a woman, how he described her is another story. See the news item below.

Flash in the pan?

We can look back at a news report like the one below and be amused. The reporter's writing reflected the industry perceptions of that era. And, perhaps she was just a flash in the pan.

Well, it turns out that in 2005 Merenda retired at the age of 82 after 53 years as a concrete contractor.

Her story was included in “A comparative analysis between SA and USA women entrepreneurs in construction,” by Ingrid Vivienne Verwey. She describes Merenda's success.

Her company built roads, sewer lines, sidewalks, and home foundations. At one point it had an average weekly payroll of $30,000 and bid on jobs up to $500,000. She did work for both government and private entities. Not bad for the “little woman” who invaded a man's specialty.

Merenda never had a major problem as a woman contractor. Yet, there were a few stumbling blocks. When she couldn't oversee a plant project because she was a woman, she worked through her employees. When she was denied a business loan because she was a single woman, she simply went to another bank.

She was successful apparently because she had the same qualities of any good business owner. Those around her said she treated her employees like family. She expected only the best and was honest.

Merenda believes women should pursue careers in concrete construction and not be afraid to take chances.

There are other early leaders like her. And she must have known many of them because she became a member of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).

NAWIC was a fledgling association when started in 1955. Now with more than 5500 members, NAWIC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005, the same year that Anna retired.