Engineering body CEO commits to diversity training over 'antagonistic' column

The CEO of the SA Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), Manglin Pillay, has apologised “unreservedly” for his article “Out on a rib” in the institution's official magazine which questioned the place of women in the engineering field.

He said he would also undergo diversity training. 

In his column Pillay had quoted a study by Leeds Beckett's School of Social Sciences and the University of Missouri which alleged that women in gender-equal societies choose care or people-orientated careers, while men tend to choose careers that orient them to things and mechanics. He inferred that women prefer not to occupy high-profile executive posts, dedicating themselves to "more important enterprises, like family and raising children, [rather] than to be at the beck and call of shareholders".

On Wednesday the engineering body's board said that Pillay would stay on in position as CEO in the wake of calls for him to step down by, among others, women’s engineering advocacy group WomENG.  

WomENG had argued that it would send a strong message to industry that discrimination in any form would not be tolerated if he lost his job over the column. 

The board said that Pillay’s valuable contribution to SAICE over eight years was considered in the decision to have him stay on in his position. It said SAICE was committed to establishing an inclusive team to “intensify existing initiatives” addressing gender and diversity issues within the sector.

The apology reads:

“As the CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, I, Manglin Pillay, unreservedly apologise for antagonistic 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.”

Co-founder of WomENG Hema Vallabh had said on Wednesday it was disappointing that Pillay had remained in his position.

“SAICE has let the engineering fraternity down by its failure to take action against him and his openly discriminatory rhetoric,” she said in a statement.

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