Posted on Thursday, 21 April 2016 10:38

South African CEO apologises for 'bitch switch' comment

By Tanisha Heiberg

Jose Dos Santos, CEO of telecoms group Cell C. Photo©ScreenShotThe CEO of telecoms group Cell C apologised on Wednesday for telling a radio interviewer that women had a "bitch switch" and attractive women boosted office morale.

But senior women managers at Cell C issued a statement supporting Jose Dos Santos, saying that while had chosen some inappropriate words, these were "far outweighed (by) what he has done for every employee in this company, particularly women."

Women do have a bitch switch. And boy when you see two women fighting it is worse than two men having an argument

Interviewed on Tuesday at online radio station CliffCentral, Dos Santos said he would like to be succeeded by a woman and that he had recruited more women to the firm. But he added: "Women do have a bitch switch. And boy when you see two women fighting it is worse than two men having an argument."

Commenting on hiring women regarded as attractive, he said: "Do you know what it does to the atmosphere in that company? The men dress better, they shave every morning."

He said his remarks, which were criticised by women's groups and on social media, were taken out of context. "The comment I made, when asked about women's empowerment, was part of a broader interview about leadership on CliffCentral," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

"I regret my choice of words which I realise were offensive." Adriaan Groenewald, who interviewed Dos Santos, took to Twitter to defend him. "People must listen to the interview for context," he said.

Cell C, founded in 2001 and majority owned by Saudi's Oger Telecom, sponsors Take a Girl Child to Work day, designed to give girls an insight into careers, as well as the Miss South Africa pageant. Dos Santos referred to the pageant during the interview as an example of Cell C empowering women. 

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