Vhahangwele Nemakonde
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
20 Apr 2016
9:57 am

Cell C CEO in trouble over ‘bitch switch’ comment

Vhahangwele Nemakonde

"We have good-looking women, we have clever women, we have smart women," Dos Santos said.

Picture: CliffCentral

Cell C CEO Jose GV Dos Santos was a guest on CliffCentral, talking about his career journey, leadership and women empowerment, among other issues.

He specifically focused on women empowerment, which is something he was “very passionate” about and inspired his trip to Mozambique in the rural areas, where women survive on farming while the men are out in the cities looking for jobs.

“I witnessed first hand what African women go through, they wake up in the morning, take the kids to school, go to the farm, walk 4km for a bucket of water, to water the vegetables they are trying to grow, the more I spoke to them the bigger the tolerance women had. I thought how do we empower these women because the men are out in the big city, looking for big jobs,” Dos Santos said.

Witnessing women go through this to provide for their children, Santos says he came back to South Africa and started looking for ways to implement women empowerment in Cell C because at the time, only 40% of their staff was women. He further says the stats have changed as the company boosts 60% staff consisting of women, with a number of them in senior executive level and middle management level.

“We have good-looking women, we have clever women, we have smart women, and that created a different environment, our call centre in Cape Town is predominantly women, and they are so passionate about solving customer problems, they have high level of tolerance, and I think we need to empower these individuals, especially females to start taking control.”

He then said  “gorgeous women” have an effect on male workers.

He highlighted the changes in society that no longer require a woman to stay at home and do the chores. He says women have become more independent, bringing the kids up by themselves, and being financially stable.

He noted however, the failures of the nation which does not have a lot of women in leadership roles and hopes one day when he steps down as CEO a woman will take the role at the company.

Sadly, Santos made one comment which landed him in hot water with the women he has been trying to empower. He spoke about the different ways in which women manage and engage in meeting, which create a “different” dynamic.

“I mean if I can use the term on your radio station I would say women do have a bitch switch you know.”

The comment received backlash on Twitter, with Home Affairs spokesperson saying Santos needs a spokesperson. One Twitter user called Santos’ speech “trash” and said he made women at Cell C sound like “unstable eye candy”.

These are some of the comments: