#StepDownManglin: SA Commission for Gender Equality to intervene & SAICE to remove CEO

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To the men in Civil Engineering- you know we are your friends. We would not presume so easily, that your entire gender shares the opinion of one single person; one single statistic or article; or one single barely substantiated opinion. BUT for those of you who do; and we know there are few because yes, we did notice you staring as we walked on site in the very comfortable and fully OHSA-compliant clothing; to you, let this letter be a most ‘femininely’ gentle reminder, that we are not in agreement. In response to your article Mr CEO, we need to discuss a few things. 

A 7-year study by Bain & Company on corporate gender disparity in South Africa found that there was a 2% increase of women in senior leadership from 26% to 28% between 2004 and 2017. One of the reasons for the meagre increase in female leadership over 13 years can be attributed to the lack of female representation at mid-to-senior level management. The study showed that in spite of this, South African women aspire to reach senior level just as much as their male counterparts. We're unsure what informed your opinion that women don’t have the same appetite for these challenging senior level positions as men do when this study highlights our resilience.

You state that men are better at “…choosing what is important and where to allocate time.” And yet “…women choose to rather have the flexibility to dedicate themselves to more important enterprises, like family and raising children…” Women wake up only 3 or 4 times in a night in order to feed their newborn babies. How on earth do we expect them to wake up once to tend to grown, adult shareholders? We're not being facetious; we really want to understand.  

Several studies have made reference to the hegemonic masculine culture of engineering as the prevailing reason why women leave the engineering field. Hannelie Nel, from the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) pointed out to alarming statistics which revealed that 70% of the women who graduate with engineering degrees are lost once they start working, because they feel completely isolated where they are. The increased representation of women at university level (31%) and graduate working level in comparison to managerial and director levels might be explained by a society attempting to evolve from a patriarchal past. The increased representation of female engineering students is inspiring; not only to the young girls in schools wondering what is possible for them in this country, but also to that 5% of women who have fought for years - twice as hard - to get to where they are. Fought so that women and girls after them should not have to make the same sacrifices they did. We write to you today, so that those statistics will continue to grow and so that our fight with not be negated by your words. 

As an aside, the time when graduates start progressing into middle management is about the same time when a woman is biologically most suited to conceiving a child. In this phase most couples choose to start a family, which some might call a meaningful exploit for them both. We can only hope that these hands-on, very involved parents might take a break from midnight calls with shareholders in order to assist their partners with midnight feeding sessions. 

Civil Engineering is based in caring: caring for society and the sustenance and progression of people. Caring and progression of all people. Caring and progression by all people. The point is, gender equality and equity need deeper understanding than the simplification into stereotypical familial gender roles and statistics which are as a result of a very recent patriarchal society. What you have done Mr CEO is simplified a complex and long history of gender inequality using an opinion based entirely in male dominance and patriarchy. But here’s the conundrum- given that money, time and resources are constrained; should we be investing so heavily in your salary?   


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SAICE has distanced themselves from the CEO’s comment, and many are calling for an apology, but that is simply not enough. His opinion makes one wonder, does the incumbent CEO of SAICE serve the interests of both men and women in the civil engineering discipline? We cannot be led by a man that does not believe in balancing the scales. As women in engineering, and members of SAICE, we hereby: 

1. Put in our official complaint and request that the Commission of Gender Equality take action against this matter and ensure equity in existing voluntary structures; and  

2. Petition the South African Institute of Civil Engineers to relieve Manglin of his duties as CEO, immediately, in support of the WomEng petition.

Photo Reference: On 9 August 1956, more than 20 000 women marched on Union Buildings with a petition to end pass laws – led by Rahima Moosa, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophia Williams. (Photo by Jurgen Schadeberg.) 



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