Women and civil engineering don’t mix – industry head

But ‘I am your friend’, says Saice CEO.
Saice needs to get its leadership educated on what gender equality means, and apply it. Picture: Shutterstock

Manglin Pillay, who represents the civil engineering industry as CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (Saice), recently questioned whether “we should be investing so heavily in attracting women to STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers, specifically engineering”.

He asserts, in the July 2018 issue of industry magazine Civil Engineering, published by Saice, that women should stick to what suits their “maternal instincts” and implies that they are not up to the task.

Pillay, who was presumably chosen to lead and represent the views of the civil engineering industry, cites research showing women “prefer to choose care or people-oriented careers, while men tend to choose careers that orient them to things and mechanics”.

He takes issue with a female engineer who spoke about her challenges working in a male-oriented environment and treats women with the contempt and derision he evidently thinks they deserve, saying: “To the women in civil engineering – you know I am your friend. I wrote you Character Currency [presumably another ‘From the CEO’s desk’ article], gave you poetry and even sang you songs, so you know I am on your side. But we need to discuss a few things.”

According to Pillay, men occupy more high-profile executive posts “because of [an] appetite for work load and extreme performance requirements at that level”.

He adds: “The reason why women do not occupy these positions is that women choose to rather have the flexibility to dedicate themselves to more important enterprises, like family and raising children.”

Women, he says, are more agreeable than men because the maternal instinct requires this trait – “to avoid conflict in managing babies” and that “it is this agreeableness that prevents women from negotiating higher pay”. 

He also cites statistics showing that while women represent 17% of Saice’s database, 31% of its student members and 21% of its graduates, only 5% of its professionally registered members are women.

Perhaps there would be more if people like Pillay were not allowed to lead industries like these and be in positions to scupper the chances of women progressing in them.

Pillay’s view is alarming and abhorrent for many reasons, which should not have to be explained, but as he represents the industry, perhaps he is not a lone aberrant voice and some explanation is required.

This is a patriarchal, patronising, misogynistic attitude which is no longer acceptable in 2018. It is also incorrect. It beggars belief that it needs to be said that women are actually capable of understanding maths, science and technology and are able to be engineers or whatever they want to be. Whether they are allowed to is still, unfortunately, questionable, especially given that they may have to come up against Pillay and his ilk.

It is not acceptable for someone chosen to represent an industry to declare that engineering, or any other job that requires proficiency in maths and science, is not suitable for women.

If this is the industry view, it should be made clear in its mission statement so that it can be challenged.

If this is not the industry view, then the board of Saice should immediately fire Pillay, state publicly that it is willing to accept female engineers and graduates on an equal footing to men, and put in place steps to make sure it does so.

Pillay says that “gender equality and equity needs deeper understanding than simplification into male dominance, patriarchy and companies providing baby care in the office”. It sure does. Saice should also urgently get its leadership educated on what gender equality means, and apply it.   

There is nothing on the Saice website reacting to Pillay’s comments, but there is a statement, published by Infrastructure News, where the executive board of Saice distances itself from his comments.

That it felt this response was sufficient is in itself an indictment of the industry. Action is required. Now.

* This article was written by a mother in the hope that all young South Africans will be able to enter the profession and industry of their choice, being judged not by whether they are female, black, gay, or whatever industry leaders find so hard to accept – but by their ability to contribute to that profession and industry.

* On approaching Saice for comment, Moneyweb was told that none would be made until after its next board meeting. 


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Wow, unbelievable. I trust SAICE will fire his @ss. In at least one of the other STEM careers – medicine – there are now many more female than male entrants and graduates. Very different from three or four decades ago.

I will probably upset lot of people, but I agree with Pillay. You can not force people into fields they are not interested in. I studied engineering in Hungary 50 years ago. The communist countries tried to achieve equality between the sexes in every field, so much so that in the 50s, following the Soviet example, they even had female underground miners (this was stopped after a few years). At my university the male/female ratio varied drastically between the different fields. Chemical engineering was 90% female, because that time Hungary mainly employed chemical engineers in the pharmaceutical field, electrical engineering 20%, mechanical engineering 10% and civil engineering about 5%. At the medical university the majority of the students were females and this is still the case. In the old Soviet Union 90% of the GPs were women, but interestingly about 90% of the surgeons were men. Why isn’t the writer demanding increased number of female mining engineers? What about male primary and pre-school teachers? I am sure lot of people would look strangely at any guy wanting to become nursery school teacher. Even nursing mainly employs the few male nurses in areas where physical strength is important, like psychiatric hospitals.

Totally non PC
He will get so much trouble for stating the obvious.

He is 100% correct though.

He never implies women don’t have the ability.
Civil engineering just does not suit women.

I worked in engineering and the women that got offered student bursaries ended up all hating the career choice. I would guess single digit % still work in engineering today. And those would have ended up in engineering anyways and are very good at what they do.

You are doing a disservice to women by implying they should like these careers just as much as men. By artificially getting the numbers up just so it can be “representative” you make them unhappy because they would actually prefer to do something else- but now they spend 4 years studying engineering…oops

Rather encourage them to follow careers they actually want to.

And women make terrible engineers in general. You are doing them a disservice.
and before the SJW types lynch me hear me out.

The initial student pool contains women students that did not necessarily want to be there in the first place, but they are academically gifted & smart, so they get bursaries and are easily recruited. because “we need women engineers”

So they graduate and go working in the industry. Now, all engineers will tell you (on infrastructure projects at least), you spend the initial part of your career on site. Power stations, mines….

Generally not a nice & comfortable environment.

Commissioning substations or pouring concrete somewhere in Africa while wearing PPE for the first couple of years of your career is %^@#^.
You learn a lot and that is what makes you a good engineer.

Later you sit at a desk and manage projects and most engineers do very little actual engineering. Mostly it turns into a project management/people manangement job for most engineers later in yuor career.

So the ladies (generalization of course) hate working on site. The end up not doing “those project” and you have women engineers that:

1)Hate the job
2)Are not very good at it, due to lack of proper experience

This is no comment on their ability. But you are generally better in something if you actually enjoy doing it and had the correct exposure.


He said civil engineering.
STEM is wide.

Women make better GPs. As a man I am not offended by the fact they women make better doctors, why are you so offended that engineering is maybe not the best life choice for women.

Generalization of course, but it is true in general.

And yes women want children (rightly so).
Sitting in some %^# in Angola 6 months of the year is not ideal if you want to raise a family.

Don’t understand why people insist genders should be the same

Not suprised by the “patriarchal, patronising,” bla bla bla rhetoric
I feel like sandwich..

“the women that got offered student bursaries ended up all hating the career choice” – I wonder if it could have anything to do with the fact that they had to work with bergbokkies like you.

“women make better doctors” …. what ?? On what do you base that …. ? For years now in Canada there have been more female med. students than men. And the nett result (in general) is they qualify, have babies, work less and less and eventually return to the profession when the nest is empty. I know female GPs who work one afternoon a week in contrast to their male colleagues. Similar issues in Australia. The result is you tend to get more hours out of the men. Just saying I have nothing against the women.My wife is one.

It’s a generalization from personal experience. (granted,not that that really counts)

I would probably prefer a male GP that has been practicing consistently than somebody that took a break, I will give you that.

There are however multiple academic studies that confirm patient outcomes and mortality rates are better under female physicians.

Really. It is incredible how people can get on their high horse when state sponsored discrimination against white males is ubiquitous in South Africa. Diversity is the term used for white male workplace ethnic cleansing.

Should we be investing so heavily in attracting women to STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers, specifically engineering? Actually not. In fields where there is a shortage of workers (STEM being an example), we should be trying to attract talent from every quarter. Not just women. Social engineering is egregious.

This article illustrates a some important points. Firstly this is classically how the left operate. If you have an unpopular opinion the left wing thought police will mercilessly destroy you and your career. “Fire Pillay shout the mob”. Secondly that there are some fields that are completely taboo. One would be the race IQ investigation and another would be the existence of the male – female brain. These topics are off limits. Ironically the male-female brain differential is the primary motivator behind the transgender movement- another left wing construct.

The fact is that women will continue to be unrepresented in many fields such as engineering despite legislation or other intervention to change this. I work in a male dominated field (mining) and all the women come and cry in my office when the going gets tough. Maybe it’s the broad shoulders. When I used to play chess as a kid there were very few female players and I used to wipe the floor with them.

The usual excuse is to play the victim. “I cannot advance in my career because of male dominated patriarchy”. It is the fault of men like Pillay.

The jury is still out on the existence of male /female brains. This is not to say discrimination is acceptable. However, research and open discussion into these fields is required to answer the question.

Not sure what is more hilarious – reading Pillay’s sexist, boneheaded article or the outraged squawks from the bubbleheaded 3rd wave feminists. Either will be good for a laugh.

poor guy is getting slaughtered on Twitter


ironically none of them bother to read his actual article or look at the facts.

Hate this virtue signalling world we now live in.

Facts or people having an opinion to debate is not acceptable anymore.

Apparently the SAICE and their 12000 members are “horrified” by his opinion and SAICE will such opinions will “never again” be aired in SAICE communication.

wonder how they know they speak for me since apparently nothing is open for debate anymore. Virtue signalling idiots

I’m one of the women engineers as referred to in Manglin’s article. I’m in the civil eng industry for >25 years. When I qualified in the early 90’s, I was told that there is no position available for ladies at “xyz” company – wont mention their name here – so I can say quite a lot about how difficult it really is to work in a “man’s” world.

I worked myself up and is earning just as much as my fellow male colleagues. I work the same hours and sometimes more – but all came with a price – my children never saw their mother!

I did have to work harder – because to earn the respect on site from men take much more persistence – especially older men or men from a certain race – but soon they realize that I am just as capable or more in some aspects as male resident engineers – and then their view change and a good working relationship is formed.

The fact is: Manglin is correct and there is truth in what he wrote.

As a mentor/trainer/manager I had to teach young girl technicians how to execute some tasks – they came to site wearing “pump” shoes, or even dresses! So should I invest my time, money and resources in them if they are not up to the task or even want the task? Some girls want to sit in the office the whole time and do the soft jobs for reasons Manglin mentioned in the article. They are there because they got the bursary. His article pose the question whether the industry should invest in getting more females. I also pose that question, cause sometimes it is really hard – should we not invest in getting the right ‘candidates’ and not just the right ‘numbers’. On some EPWP projects, the women has to carry the bags of cement or push the wheelbarrows for the whole day – because the contractor is obliged to employ a certain number of females as well – we are definitely not created physically equal! Being a female civil engineer is definitely not easy, but if the job suits you it can be very rewarding and you would love it. It does come with challenges e.g. sometime I do need a male companion, as it poses a risk to be female alone on some places – which again cost more resources – doesn’t it?

In hindsight – would I choose this career again – YES
Is it for everyone? No
Is it more difficult for women to work in civ eng? YES
Does women have the capability what it takes? Yes and no – depending on the task.
Should the industry invest in getting more women engineers? No, rather invest in the correct candidate – not the numbers!

In conclusion: Everyone reads Manglin’s article through their own lenses!

We all work hard Logan, you aren’t special, ironically that statement of yours is the nub of the problem i.e. I’m a women therefore I want different rules (that I make) but don’t want different rules (that you make)

Could not agree more. I come from the generation where women could be bank clerks, nurses or teachers. (One school friend became a doctor because she was tall and thought she would “never find a husband anyway”, but she married a medical classmate, had four children and never practised.) I became a teacher, always earned less than my male counterparts, could not be appointed permanently after I got married, so had to reapply for my post annually. Gave up and moved into translation and editing instead and earned even less. So I guess I should be really bitter and twisted, right? To what end? Like most women I know, I may have had the brains but I definitely never had the physical strength or stamina to do “a man’s job”. Let alone “having it all” in the form of a demanding career plus children. How often have I sat in a (female) doctor’s office and listened to half my allotted, already short, paid-for time being spent on the phone, obviously to either a child or a carer. So I have definitely and firmly moved to a male general practitioner who gives me his full attention every time and has notably more energy and up-to-date knowledge on recent medical developments, as he obviously has more time to spend on keeping up. I think especially young women watch too many American soaps where even a “civil engineer” would be running around in heels and a skirt suit with perfect hair and teeth while having a steaming affair with her boss – and then they imagine that’s all there is to a demanding career. As an actress, yes. But not in the real world.

He is simply stating what many studies have found world wide.
Men have less of a problem giving up their entire lives (wife kids) and treating others like assholes (Steve Jobs) to further their career.

If you took 2 seconds to read the actual study instead of being useless social justice warriors accomplishing nothing… then you might actually learn something about human nature.

He is not discriminating against women at all, you are just listening to him with your own agenda.

The mindless gender equal outcome punting idiots..

Go for them! name and shame them all.

I wasn’t aware till recently, these idiots originated in the English departments of universities. They have no clue about real sciences or statistical significance what so ever.

They have the news platforms to write lofty made-up jargon.

Biologically predisposed differences will dominate no mater what they write!

Manglin is 100% correct. Simply referring to well known research. The journalist do not understand averages.

Hey, hey…Pillay got to go!

You cannot have someone heading such and important agency, believing this. He is not going to do anything to realize the objectives set, forget believe anything that women have the same brain and ambitions as men, and that with the right foundation and support they can do just about anything that any human can do. The only important organ here is the brain, and it is ‘a terrible thing to waste’. But for now, let Mangalin go and focus on what he is good at…being at home and being looked after by a woman (so much for women being not good at anything – why don’t you try cooking your own lunch? Instead of asking a domestic engineer or raise your own kids or reproduce by yourself?)!

End of comments.




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