Even as more and more women join construction companies, it’s still uncommon to find them in the boardroom.
Anna Stern’s own example is helping to change that. Stern became vice president of Tri-North Builders, a company her father helped found, in 2010. It was just as the country was recovering from its latest economic recession and still a difficult time for contractors.
She has since played a big part in ensuring Tri-North has not missed out on what has proved to be one of the biggest building booms in modern times. Her time at Tri-North has seen the company take on projects like The Corners of Brookfield, a 750,000-square-foot mixed-use shopping mall visible from Interstate 94 just west of Milwaukee; and the Galaxie, a 14-story building with 201 apartments and shopping on Madison’s East Washington Avenue.
Throughout it all, Stern has been guided not merely by her family’s long-standing ties to the industry. She also has her own set of professional and educational accomplishments.
After earning a degree in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stern went on to get a law degree from the UW Law School. Next came a five-year stint at the Michael Best firm, where she worked on everything from liens and public bidding to indemnity and insurance, disputes, contracts, claim avoidance and construction documentation.
Those experiences made Stern the natural choice to take over Tri-North’s legal affairs when she decided she wanted to get back to the business she knew best. She has since helped to rewrite Tri-North’s contracts in a way meant to ensure the company’s clients receive the utmost protection at times when subcontractors run into trouble on projects.
Beyond legal work, Stern is responsible for overseeing the company’s operations and staff. She helped make the risky decision to begin hiring again after the company had been run as lean as possible for a couple of years to ensure it could weather the recession. She has also overseen a big increase in the company’s marketing and business-development endeavors.
Outside work, Stern spends much of her time with her family: her husband, Patrick, who has twice been an alderman for the city of Fitchburg, and her two children, Alexandra, 10, and Edward, 6.
Like many in the industry, Stern appreciates the strides women have been able to make in recent years but still sees plenty of room for improvement.
“A lot of it is having to adapt,” she said.