The CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), Manglin Pillay, will keep his job after apologising for writing a column that was seen as sexist, Fin24 has reported.
The engineering body called an emergency meeting on Wednesday, after which they issued an apology for the article and said that while Pillay will keep his job, he will face internal discipline.
The column “Out on a rib” was featured in the July issue of the civil engineering industry magazine.
In it, Pillay questioned whether there should be investment in attracting women to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, or investment in creating more gender equal societies.
Pillay quoted a study from a Missouri University in collaboration with Leeds Beckett’s School of Social Sciences, which claimed that in gender-equal societies women generally choose care or people-oriented careers while men are more likely to choose careers relating to mechanics.
He came to the conclusion that women prefer not to occupy high-profile executive posts, and would rather stick to “more important enterprises, like family and raising children, (rather) than to be at the beck and call of shareholders”.
The column was widely seen as sexist.
According to a statement issued by SAICE: “While the publication of Pillay’s article was unfortunate, we cannot ignore his invaluable contribution to SAICE and to the broader engineering sector over the past eight years.
“The board has accepted his apology and his acknowledgement of the public furore this has caused.”
“The board regrets the publication of Pillay’s article. Additional steps have been put in place internally to ensure that this does not happen again.”
SAICE was slammed for not doing enough to distance itself from Pillay’s words by women engineers’ advocacy group WomENG.
WomENG issued an online petition that called for Pillay to be removed from his CEO position in an effort to set an example and show discrimination will not be tolerated by the engineering body.
The petition had garnered 1 100 signatures on Wednesday morning according to WomENG co-founder Hema Vallabh.
Vellabh also wrote an open letter to SAICE’s board, alongside WomENG co-founder Naadiya Moosajee, in which they argued that Pillay’s views can’t be considered separate to an organisation that he has been appointed to represent.
The organisation slammed Pillay’s “unfounded and irresponsible” remarks.
Vallabh expressed disappointment about SAICE’s reaction to the controversial column.
“We are incredibly disappointed at the weak stance taken by SAICE. While we support their efforts to establish an inclusive team to intensify existing initiatives to redress gender and diversity issues within the engineering sector, we firmly believe that any efforts will be diluted as long as Manglin Pillay remains at the helm of the organisation.
“SAICE has let the engineering fraternity down by its failure to take action against him and his openly discriminatory rhetoric,” Vallabh said.
Vallabh went on to say that SAICE’s valuing of Pillay’s contribution to the body more than attempts to clear the engineering sector of discrimination highlight the “sexism and misogyny” in the industry.