The CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (Saice), Manglin Pillay, had his employment “terminated” with immediate effect on Thursday after his apology for writing a column that was seen as sexist failed to spare him fallout.
In a statement, Saice president Errol Kerst explained that Pillay and the board agreed he should go in the wake of concerns from several members.
“In the interest of Saice and the long-term relationship with members, stakeholders and the public in general, Manglin Pillay and the executive board of Saice have agreed to part ways. Manglin’s tenure as CEO has thus been terminated with immediate effect.”
His 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. He has since argued that he’s been variously misunderstood or misquoted.
Pillay quoted a study from a Missouri University in collaboration with the 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 and Saice was initially slammed for not doing enough to distance itself from Pillay’s words by female 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.
WomENG co-founder Hema Vallabh said the Pillay saga had highlighted the “sexism and misogyny” in the industry.
She and many others have reacted to the news of Pillay’s departure.
For many the case of #ManglinPillay was forgotten after the hype. But to those who continued to advocate for change, today you won. And just to be clear, the victory is not about losing his job, but about sending the message that no form of #discrimination will be tolerated pic.twitter.com/YGNGocW4Nf
— Hema Vallabh (@HemsVallabh) September 6, 2018
Which women does @_WomEng represent even? They took the views of a few people and ran with it instead of engaging in robust debates on the article.. one article and they labelled #ManglinPillay a misogynist who deserves to be fired.. they even calling it a victory ????
— Tsepo Tshiwilowilo (@Tsepo_Tshiwilo) September 7, 2018
Well done @saice_civil. It took a while but you eventually did the right thing! #saiceCEO #ManglinPillay is fired! #ManglinPillayFired #SAICE #saice @_WomEng @uct_ebesc @UCTStudent @News24 https://t.co/mFnqqsD3uc
— Emmanuel Omatuku (@EmmanuelOmatuku) September 6, 2018
Good grief. Did #ManglinPillay really think he can write this about women in the workplace without any consequences? Millions of us (many single moms too) have brilliant careers AND families!
Engineering body removes CEO for comments about women via @Fin24 https://t.co/HZuxoqvE9F
— Ilse Salzwedel (@ilsesalzwedel) September 7, 2018