Target: Evan Thornley, founder of LookSmart
Goal: Expose Mr. Thornley for advocating that tech companies hire women because they are “cheaper” than men
“WOMEN: Like men, only cheaper.” This outrageous phrase was recently displayed on a slide during a presentation at the Sunrise tech startup conference. The person giving the presentation was Evan Thornley, founder of an online advertising company and former Australian politician. According to observers, many in the audience were understandably furious.
The gender wage gap is well documented although some continue to defend it, claiming that by taking time off to raise children women choose to lessen their desirability as employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in virtually every occupation–112 out of 115–women continue to earn less than men. Thornley described this disparity as an “opportunity for forward thinking people.”
“Call me opportunistic,” he went on to explain. “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.” He later apologized for his outrageous depiction of the issue, stating that “gender inequality sucks everywhere but [especially] in tech–I do what I can to combat it.” His defensive apology doesn’t excuse the fact that he advised other tech companies to exploit this very issue, as he did.
Expose Thornley’s sexist hiring practices and help draw attention to the way businesses continue to pay women less even for superior work.
Dear Mr. Thornley,
While you may have intended to merely shine a light on the gender wage gap at the Sunrise startup conference, in reality your presentation and business practices help justify women’s exploitation. You advised other “forward thinking” executives to make the most of this money-saving “opportunity” by hiring talented women, who can be paid less than male employees. How could this suggestion be taken as anything but sexist?
One slide in your presentation, for which you have faced especially harsh criticism, proclaimed that women are “like men, only cheaper.” Perhaps this was meant sarcastically; however when seen alongside your hiring practices it’s no wonder the slide caused such an uproar. At the very least your presentation was in poor taste. Your suggestion that tech companies can and should exploit the gender wage gap, however, is completely inexcusable.
Mr. Thornley, you have apologized for bungling the presentation but not for your sexist hiring practices. I must insist that you speak out against hiring talented women as a cost-saving measure, and sincerely work to address the gender wage gap.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Mattes via Wikimedia Commons