"Like men, only cheaper": Tech exec gives shocking reason for wanting to hire women

Evan Thornley discussed hiring women at tech conference in Sydney

Published September 23, 2014 10:25PM (EDT)

       (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-160669p1.html'>Ollyy</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>/Salon)
(Ollyy via Shutterstock/Salon)

Evan Thornley, multimillionaire founder of LookSmart, an online advertising company, explained at a tech conference in Sydney, Australia, why he hires women: They're cheaper.

He illustrated his point in a slide displaying the word, "Women: Like Men, Only Cheaper."

“The Australian labor market and world labor market just consistently and amazingly undervalues women in so many roles, particularly in our industry,” he stated, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

“Call me opportunistic," Thornley continued. "I thought I could get better people with less competition because we were willing to understand the skills and capabilities that many of these woman had."

Not only does Thornley acknowledge that there is a gender wage gap, but also basically states that he exploited it for less expensive labor.

“And [they were] still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender," he stated.

He summed it up with: "I’m not advocating that, that inequality should stay – I’m just saying that there is an opportunity for forward thinking people."

Let's dissect, shall we?

He acknowledges that women are undervalued in tech, but that they're just as capable -- if not better -- than men. And he blatantly shines a bold spotlight on the fact that women on average make less than men.

In the U.S. women make 78 cents to a man's dollar. And Senate Republicans recently blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act. In Australia, as of Aug. 14, men earned 18.2 percent more than women.

Take a gander at the gender breakdown of large tech companies: There's a dearth of women in this industry.

And then when a tech executive actually addressed this serious issue, he seriously botched it. It is disturbingly honest, and extraordinarily insulting. Oh yes, and pay discrimination in the U.S. is also illegal.

Thornley later apologized for the comment. "Yep, stuffed that up. What I was trying to say folks was 'gender inequality sucks everywhere but esp in tech - I do what I can to combat it.' Sorry it didn't come out that way. ET," he wrote online.

"I have always paid men and women exactly the same for the same work and you will find a large group of fantastic talented women I’ve worked with who will vouch for that."

As Bloomberg Businessweek points out, this falls in line with a recent Harvard University survey, published in the Crimson, that found that women in tech and engineering made far less than men.

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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Australia Gender Pay Gap Tech Technology Women In Tech