Chief executive of South African Institution of Civil Engineering (Saice), Manglin Pillay. Picture: Facebook
JOHANNESBURG - The SA Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) has decided after an emergency meeting of its executive board to retain chief executive Manglin Pillay, who questioned the wisdom of investing heavily to attract women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Errol Kerst, the president of SAICE, said while the publication of Pillay’s article was unfortunate, they could not 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,” he said.

The article was in the July 2018 edition of SAICE’s Civil Engineering Magazine.

In the article, Pillay among other things said: “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 in attracting women into STEM careers, specifically engineering, or should we invest it in creating more gender-equal societies?”

The executive board of SAICE earlier this week officially distanced itself from what it referred to as “this unfortunate article”, adding that Pillay’s views in no way reflected the opinions of SAICE’s membership of more than 12000.

Kerst said on Wednesday that SAICE’s board regretted the publication of Pillay’s article and additional steps had been put in place internally “to ensure that this does not happen again”.

He added that the board had agreed to establish an inclusive team to intensify existing initiatives to redress gender and diversity issues within the engineering sector.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has noted Pillay's comments with dismay.

Kubayi-Ngubane said on Wednesday that she believed the suggestion that women have no place in the field of engineering smacked of sexism and perpetuated the notion that women were better off as mere caregivers who could not compete with their male counterparts as professionals.

“This reverses efforts in society to tilt the scales and ensure that women, who constitute half of the population, receive equal recognition in the workplace and are not blocked from ascending to managerial positions that are still dominated by men."