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Mon September 20 2021

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Sexist opinion piece forces departure of boss of South Africa's civils body

10 Sep 18 The CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering has left after writing an opinion piece that drew ire for containing sweeping assumptions about women in the profession.

The president of the SAICE has written to members following the departure of CEO Manglin Pillay over the piece 'Out on a rib', which is available online in the July issue of the institution's magazine, Civil Engineering. "In the interests of SAICE and its long-term relationship with members, stakeholders and the public in general, Manglin Pillay and the Executive Board of the SAICE have agreed to part ways," said president Errol Korst. "Manglin's tenure as CEO has thus been terminated with immediate effect."

There were many complaints about Pillay's comments in the piece, which contained statements such as "Also, the fact that more men occupy high-profile executive posts is tremendous, not because of gender, but because of appetite for work load and extreme performance requirements at that level, choosing what is important and where to allocate time...The reason why women do not occupy these positions is that women choose to rather have the flexibility to dedicated themselves to more important enterprises, like family and raising children, than to be at the beck and call of shareholders who will wake them up in the middle of the night to attend to shareholder aspirations."

Another paragraph talked about how a maternal instinct explained why "women are more agreeable than men. This is to avoid conflict in managing babies. In cases where salary disparity exists for the same type and duration of work, it is this agreeableness that prevents women from negotiating higher pay".

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The article concluded: "But here's the conundrum - given that money, time and resources are constrained, and evidence pointing to women being predisposed to caring and people careers, should we be investing so heavily into attracting women into STEM careers, specifically engineering, or should we invest in creating more gender-equal societies."

SAICE had immediately distanced itself from the article and an apology from Pillay was published on the institution's website in August. In the apology, Pillay said: "As the CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), I, Manglin Pillay, unreservedly apologise for antagonising and offending so many people with my article published in the July 2018 edition of Civil Engineering. I humbly commit myself to taking counsel from fellow women engineers, other colleagues in the STEM fields and professionals in diversity training."

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