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5 times SA CEOs came under fire for how they treated women - and what happened to them

Aug 09 2018 10:55
Tehillah Niselow

The 'Out on a Rib' July column by Manglin Pillay, CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, has done the rounds on social media and WhatsApp, generating interest from people who would never ordinarily pick up an engineering trade magazine.

Pillay’s question about whether funding should be diverted away from attracting women into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as women are "predisposed" to care- or people-oriented work, hit a nerve among many during Women's Month.

According to Statistics SA, women make up 51% of the total population, but accounted for 43.8% of total employment in the second quarter of 2018.

Just 32% of managers in South Africa are women. Females dominate the domestic worker and clerk or technician occupations, with men making up the majority in other occupations.

Fin24 took a look at five of SA's CEOs who have come under fire in the media for either sexism, harassment, impairing the dignity of female colleagues or comments about women, and what the outcome was. 

Manglin Pillay - South African Institution for Civil Engineering (SAICE)

In the July edition of SAICE Civil Engineering Magazine, Pillay said women preferred not to occupy high-profile executive posts because they would rather have "the flexibility to dedicate themselves to more important enterprises, like family and raising children than to be at the beck and call of shareholders".

Pillay, who spoke on Gauteng-based radio station 702 on Monday morning, defended his article: "I’m simply saying we need to have a deeper discussion around it."

He added that it was "general knowledge around the world" that women chose caring activities as careers.

SAICE's board was set to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday, as calls mounted for action to be taken against him over his statements about women’s role in engineering. Following the meeting, it emerged that Pillay would be keeping his job and that SAICE would be handling the matter "internally".

Paul Badrick - Grant Thornton

Paul Badrick, CEO of audit company Grant Thornton, stepped aside in July, pending an investigation, after a probe into another case of sexual harassment, which involved the firm’s former head of forensics, brought up claims against Badrick.

The allegations against Badrick dated back to 2015, and the company was accused of not taking a firm stance on sexual harassment.

Badrick apologised in March to two former employees who were sexually harassed by the company’s former head of forensics, only to step aside over a similar charge a few months later.

Mark Lamberti - Imperial Holdings

The former Imperial Holdings CEO resigned from the boards of Eskom and Business Leadership SA (BLSA), and stepped down as CEO of Imperial, in quick succession earlier this year.

His actions followed a ruling by the North Gauteng High Court in early April that Lamberti had impaired the dignity of Adila Chowan, a former senior employee at Imperial’s subsidiary Associated Motor Holdings, when he referred to her as a "female employment equity candidate" without recognition of her status as a professional qualified chartered accountant with extensive experience.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, trade union federations Cosatu and Saftu, and the Black Business Council were at the forefront, calling for Lamberti to resign from all his positions.

Jose Dos Santos - Cell C

Mobile operator Cell C's CEO Jose Dos Santos came under fire in April 2016, over comments he made about women in the workplace on internet radio station CliffCentral.

"If I can use the term on the radio station, women do have a b****- switch and, boy, if you see two women fighting, it’s worse than two men having an argument," Dos Santos was quoted as saying in the interview.

He later apologised for his comments, saying they were a generalisation, and he regretted using that type of language.

Russell Loubser - JSE

The former CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was reported as having slapped a female business journalist’s bum with a rolled up press release in October 2011, in an effort to hurry her inside ahead of a presentation in Sandton.

The JSE said at the time that the journalist may have misunderstood the touch on her rear end.

"Russell meant nothing in the form of harassment or in malice, he was just indicating the fact that you were late in arriving for his presentation. He says you're right, in this day and age journalists still do arrive late.

"His intention, however, was not to embarrass or harass you in any way, just that he wanted to have the presentation get underway on time. Hope you understand," said Renata da Silva, Loubser's spokesperson at the time.

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sexual harassment  |  sexism  |  ceos
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