Professor Nishani Harinarain, an Associate Professor in the Construction Studies Discipline, has emerged as a trailblazer in the field of construction and an inspiring figure for women in science.
With a career spanning over 17 years in academia (she was the first PhD graduate in Construction Management at UKZN) she has made significant contributions to the construction industry and has garnered several accolades for her outstanding work.
"I was drawn to the construction industry because of my fascination with buildings and infrastructure,” she recalls. “I enjoy seeing projects come to life and being involved in the process."
‘Women add unique skills to the industry’
As a woman entering the construction field, Nishani faced numerous challenges, particularly those related to gender bias and stereotypes.
"I was often the only woman on site or in the boardroom,” she explains. “I faced scepticism about my abilities, and although I did not encounter it, I know that the industry can be harsh and unwelcoming and, in the past, insensitive towards women."
To overcome these challenges, Nishani emphasizes the importance of persistence and hard work.
“I ensured that I was never excluded and that I was given the opportunities to grow. I think it is important for firms to create a more inclusive and supportive environment to address the unique challenges faced by women. Maybe this can even help attract and retain more women in the construction industry."
When asked about the unique perspectives and skills that women bring to the field of quantity surveying, she highlights their collaborative nature and communication skills.
“Our ability to foster strong relationships, facilitate teamwork, and effectively communicate with stakeholders can enhance project coordination and client satisfaction. Women also tend to be adept at building and nurturing relationships, which is crucial in quantity surveying. Developing trust and rapport with clients, contractors, and suppliers can lead to long-term partnerships and repeat business, contributing to the success of projects and the reputation of the quantity surveyor. We play an important role in the industry."
Roleplayers should work together to encourage STEM careers
Offering advice to young women considering a career in construction or quantity surveying, Nishani encourages them to explore their interests and connect with professionals in the field.
“Their experiences and guidance can provide valuable insights and support as you navigate your own career path. Take the time to understand why you are interested in the construction industry or quantity surveying. Explore different aspects of the field to identify what truly resonates with you”
To encourage more young girls to consider STEM careers in construction-related fields, Nishani suggests early exposure to STEM concepts and construction-related activities.
"Girls need to be encouraged to pursue their interests and passions without societal limitations. There needs to be a collaboration between construction companies, industry associations, and professional organizations to promote diversity and inclusivity that specifically target girls and promote their entry into STEM fields within the construction industry."
She believes that a career in quantity surveying is not only rewarding and fulfilling but also contributes to the industry's growth and helps shape a more diverse and inclusive future.
*Professor Nishani Harinarain is a member of The Association of South African Quantity Surveyors and has been facilitating numerous webinars through the EduTech arm of the ASAQS.
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