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Aurecon’s Open Letter to SAICE

Aurecon

1 August 2018

President of the Board
South African Institution of Civil Engineers
SAICE House, Block 19, Thornhill Office Park
94 Bekker Road
Vorna Valley
Midrand,
1686

OPEN LETTER TO SAICE IN RESPONSE TO “OUT ON A RIB” BY SAICE CEO

Dear Mr Kerst

We write to you with regards to the recent article, penned by your CEO Mr Manglin Pillay, which features in the July issue of SAICE Magazine. It is attached for ease of reference.

We believe the article published under your organisation’s name is extremely damaging to our reputation as engineers and is also insensitive to the ongoing challenges that women engineers face. The article stereotypes women by presenting them as soft and caring, yet ultimately ill-suited for roles that are technically and managerially demanding.  It also stereotypes men who by implication are presented as less caring and less suitable for parenting or people-oriented careers. It justifies unequal pay, despite codes and legislation prohibiting discriminatory practices in the workplace. It even stereotypes industry leaders as disagreeable, power hungry and friendless A-types.  

As a leading engineering and infrastructure advisory company in South Africa, Aurecon is deeply committed to fostering inclusivity and diversity within our business, the sector and society.  To achieve this, we all need to work toward creating an environment where both genders can thrive and have equal opportunities. It is against this backdrop that our company would like to place on record our objection to the position expressed by your CEO in your official magazine.

We are worried that so few females are involved in STEM in South Africa and the broader African continent. Based on our experience and as research shows in many organisations, a more diverse workforce results in more creativity, a broader perspective on potential solutions and excellent technical outcomes. As a profession and industry, we should be doing all that we can to increase the number of women, and many other people who have been previously excluded from STEM, by making STEM more attractive.  

The success of women engineers at Aurecon proves our stance that the effective attraction and retention of females is an important component of any successful business of the future. We need to create space for women to succeed and to become the role models of our young women engineers across the continent.

At Aurecon we are, and will continue to be, committed to creating an environment where women can thrive and be celebrated. We have made much progress towards our diversity goals but still have a way to go.  I am proud of the progress we have made and our leadership’s commitment to this goal.

We believe no single organisation can drive real change alone.  We need to combine our efforts to eradicate gender discrimination within the engineering industry and continue to encourage others to do the same.

As a proud sponsor of SAICE, Aurecon would like to play an active and constructive role in driving this change and would therefore like clarity from SAICE on its official position with regard to gender equality within the engineering sector.  We would also like to know how you intend to respond to the negative publicity that this article will undoubtedly generate. We believe that you cannot say you are attracting the best and brightest people in your profession if you only draw from half the population.

The women of South Africa deserve an official apology, a position which we as Aurecon fully support.

Yours faithfully

FERDI NELL

MANAGING DIRECTOR, AURECON, AFRICA

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