Member Highlight: Nisha Powers
Nisha Powers, a co-chair of the Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis Board of Directors, brings in a perspective not often seen in the world of foundations: that of a civil engineer.
Nisha, president of Memphis' Powers Hill Design, was recently recognized as a FACE of Memphis by StyleBlueprint, a digital publication connecting women to their community in Memphis and several other Southern cities.
In an interview with StyleBlueprint, Nisha said her experience within a male-dominated field has helped fuel her passion for helping other women through the foundation.
"Someone once told me if you can get your personal life, your professional life and your community life to be congruent, you will be a much happier person," she said. "I think about that in how we invest our philanthropic time and effort at Powers Hill. To me, WFGM is the best investment for us because it aligns our personal and community life with our work."
The alignment between Nisha's professional and philanthropic work runs both ways – the boutique firm she helps lead has taken on projects that were not only excellent examples of engineering but also helped some of Memphis' most vulnerable residents. One example she cited is helping the Memphis Zoo address parking issues.
"I wanted the project for our firm because it would require an understanding of people's feelings and experiences. It would mean taking two entities who had been at odds for so long and giving them an option that they both could live with," she said. "During the interview, I said that I wanted to take my son to the zoo and the park and never have him know the animosity people felt over this issue. In years to come, I want him to go from place to place and never realize there was a problem because the solution is so cohesive."
This approach to engineering, Nisha said, is a direct consequence of her being one of relatively few women of color in her field.
"Just looking from the outside, I'm already the oddball as an Indian and as a woman. Opening my own firm gave me a way to address engineering differently, from a female perspective, from a more intimate relationship perspective," she said. "That's really what it's all about for me: to be able to develop strong relationships with my clients and the community we serve."
Relationships and community service are also at the core of her work with the foundation, which focuses its giving on not only children, but mothers as well.
"We take a two-generation approach," she said. "You can help a child, you can help a mom, but when you're helping both, you are moving a household into a different realm."
Of all the initiatives the foundation funds, there's one, Nisha says, she feels particularly close to.
"Of the organizations the Women's Foundation supports, the University of Memphis' Girls Experiencing Engineering is very dear to my heart because I want to see more girls in the male-dominated field of engineering," she said. "The program exposes middle and high school girls to engineering in summer camps with engaging activities. I speak to the girls at the camp every year because I want them to know what's possible."