Tech Exec Boasts About Hiring A Woman For Less: Women Are Just ‘Like Men, Only Cheaper’

Photo credit: Luis Enrique

Photo credit: Luis Enrique

Recently, Australian tech executive Evan Thornley raised eyebrows at a technology startup conference when he revealed that he took advantage of the gender wage gap at one of his previous companies.

Thornley, who is also a former politician, said that due to the gender wage gap, he was able to hire talented women “relatively cheap” because they were undervalued in the tech field. At the time, Thornley was running an online advertising company called LookSmart, and he saw pay inequality as an opportunity instead of sexism. He said:

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

There’s a great arbitrage there, we would give [women] more responsibility and a greater share of the rewards than they were likely to get anywhere else and that was still often relatively cheap to someone less good of a different gender.” (source)

Although Thornley expressed that he didn’t want the gender wage gap to continue, he noted that there were benefits:

“I’m not advocating that, that inequality should stay – I’m just saying that there is an opportunity for forward thinking people.” (source)

To aid him during his talk, he accompanied his statements with a slide that read: “Women: Like men, only cheaper.”

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Thornley’s visual and statements left many audience members appalled, and as word of the exec’s comments got out, many took to social media to vent:

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The tech exec later apologized in the comment section of a blog post by Mat Beeche titled “Well shit, that was a dumb thing to do at a startup conference.” Thornley tried to quiet the backlash, saying that he hadn’t meant for his gender wage gap comments to sound sexist.

“Gender inequality sucks everywhere but esp in tech – I do what I can to combat it. Sorry it didn’t come out that way.” (source)

He also added:

“Others may find it a good decision for their business to hire talented women and pay them properly rather than hire less talented men and over-pay them.” (source)

Although Thornley is correct in that women make less and are undervalued – especially in the tech industry, you can’t combat sexism simply by hiring women. You have to actually pay them fairly instead of taking advantage of widespread gender inequality.

Even in this day and age, women are only making 78 percent of what their male equivalents make – and that holds true for nearly every job in any field. Annually, women working in science, technology, engineering and math fields make $15,900 less than their male counterparts.

Although women make up 41 percent of science and engineering degrees, they only make up for about 25 percent of tech occupations. A lot of talent is going to waste, and it’s a shame that people like Thornley are using discrimination and wage gaps to benefit their wallets instead of doing something to combat it.