Generic picture; women in mining, Picture: ISTOCK
Generic picture; women in mining, Picture: ISTOCK

The backlash over a "misogynistic article" about women in the engineering industry has led to a petition calling for the removal of Manglin Pillay as CEO of the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (Saice).

Pillay penned an article in the July issue of Civil Engineering magazine questioning whether SA should invest in women in science‚ technology‚ engineering and mathematics because they were more "predisposed" to "caring and people" careers. The article was also posted on his LinkedIn account.

In it‚ he said "most women" at a certain age "prefer to work part-time or dedicate themselves completely to child rearing or pursuing other meaningful exploits generally related to caring"‚ the Sunday Times reported at the weekend.

Saice’s executive board distanced itself from the article‚ saying it was "horrified" and "unfortunate". Saice will hold an emergency board meeting on Wednesday to address the furore around the article.

WomEng‚ an organisation that deals with issues faced by women in the engineering sector‚ has started a petition on GoPetition calling for Pillay to be ousted from his position.

The petition said he had "used his leadership role and public platform of the Saice magazine to pen a misogynistic article about women in the engineering industry. Saice has distanced itself from the article‚ subsequently retracted it and is yet to take any action in response to the article.

"We at WomEng have issued and stand by our statement for Saice to act swiftly to remove Manglin Pillay as CEO. His poor and misrepresented facts‚ blatant sexist comments and unfounded arguments have no place in the engineering sector. We ask you to join us by signing this petition to demand Saice to set an example by removing Manglin Pillay as their CEO and sending a message to the engineering industry that discrimination of any type will not be tolerated and if the sector truly believes in transformation‚ they will set the precedent."

Pillay told the Sunday Times that he was simply starting a discussion. "The article is based on a technical‚ scientific study. If anyone wants to debate‚ it must not be an emotive discussion‚ it must be based on data."

In the article‚ he wrote: "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."

His comments have been met with outrage on social media.

"It’s because of men like #ManglinPillay that women aren’t given the ‘opportunities’ to take on STEM (science‚ technology‚ engineering and mathematics) roles. You’ll be amazed what appetite women have in their careers. If women in STEM roles proved their superiority‚ it would dent your ego & make YOU feel inferior‚" said one commentator in a tweet.

"Manglin Pillay takes no accountability for his backward‚ flawed‚ sexist and misogynistic thinking. He doesn’t understand how women need to work twice as hard to prove themselves? Really? #EducateYourself‚" said Brenda Rogerson.

"Sit down Manglin Pillay. You’re embarrassing yourself and your organisation. You’re a reputational risk‚" tweeted Esme Arendse.