Criselda Bisram at work as a senior engineer at eThekwini Electricity.
Criselda Bisram at work as a senior engineer at eThekwini Electricity.
Criselda Bisram, finalist for the 2018 regional Businesswoman of the Year, government category.
Criselda Bisram, finalist for the 2018 regional Businesswoman of the Year, government category.
SAICE CEO, Manglin Pillay.
SAICE CEO, Manglin Pillay.

AT THE end of the day women are more predisposed to be caring, and that’s what will make them great engineers and scientists, said Durban’s top electrical engineer .

33-year-old Criselda Bisram, the senior engineer at eThekwini Electricity’s Lighting and Planning Department, has condemned Manglin Pillay for his “sexist and chauvinist” views about women in the workplace.

Pillay, the CEO of the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE), a national body which aims to improve the practice of civil engineering, stated last month that women were more predisposed to caring careers than the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

In his ‘Out on a rib’ article, he stated that more men occupy high-profile executive positions because of their “appetite for workload and extreme performance requirements at that level, choosing what is important and where to allocate time”.

He added: “In this phase, most women prefer to work part-time or to dedicate themselves completely to child rearing or pursuing other meaningful exploits generally related to caring.”

Despite the widespread criticism, including a petition by WomEng for Pillay to be axed from his leadership seat, the Durban-born engineer will remain as CEO of SAICE.

A day after National Women’s Day, Pillay issued a formal apology via SAICE for “antagonising and offending so many people”.
“I humbly commit myself to taking counsel from fellow women engineers, other colleagues in STEM fields and professionals in diversity training,” he said.

Errol Kerst, SAICE president, said: “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.”

Bisram, a mother of a three-year-old son, is leading the city’s pilot project for a new innovation technology for ‘smarter’ street lighting.

“Women have to work twice as hard as men. We have to prove ourselves not just at work but at home as well. We bear the brunt of a hierarchy, and discrimination against our gender,” she said.

Last week, Bisram’s son was tasked with a school project; to draw a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“He drew himself fixing a lightbulb, he wanted to be like me,” she said.

This, Bisram, believed reflected the way the world is positively changing.

She said: “We have been brought up in an environment that promotes the culture of men being superior to women. These cultural differences have been instilled in us. Young women are being told that STEM is for a man, and they’re suited for domestic jobs, so they don’t see themselves putting on boots and a hard-hat to head out to the field.”

Bisram called for young girls to become the bread-winners, and create a society of equality.

This week, Bisram will head to the annual regional Businesswoman of the Year 2018 awards event, where she has shortlisted as a finalist in the government category.

She believed that Pillay’s views were not totally flawed.

She said: “Yes, we are women and thereby naturally more predisposed to being caring, and that is going to make us even greater engineers and scientists because we care for the needs of the people and work to create a positive change that are suited to the needs of the society we care for.”

SUNDAY TRIBUNE