A tech executive is under fire for a speech in which he said that women were often relatively cheap to hire, compared to men.

Looksmart Co-founder Evan Thornley 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.” 

His speech was accompanied by a graphic that said, “Women: Like men, only cheaper.”

He responded yesterday on Facebook:

Anyone who has read some recent press coverage of my speech to the sunrise startup conference may be mistaken into thinking I am an advocate for gender inequality in the workplace. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am proud to have hired more women including in senior roles than most in the tech industry and paid them better incl stock options where real wealth can be created. I have always paid men and women the same for the same work - I just hired more women than most as they were better candidates. The graphic that accompanied my speech was used in irony/sarcasm to point out the inequities in current labour markets - I grabbed it on Google at 5am that morning off a site for a law firm who represent underpaid women - and they created it with the same sense of irony/sarcasm. My attempt to explain and advocate this was not well thought out - in trying to say we should hire more women and pay them more because this is the right thing to do but also a good business decision, and combined with the graphic left some who read this online (very few at the Conference misunderstood me) as actually advocating paying women less than men - something I have never done and never advocated. I'm bummed to have created that impression and hope this clears it up a little. At least it has brought some attention to the important issue of gender inequality in the workplace - esp in tech - even if not in the way I had hoped. Next time I'll try something simpler like "I tended to hire more women and pay them more than others in the industry. I thought they were better candidates and thought hiring some of the over rated and over paid men in our industry would be a dumb business decision."

The women of “Outnumbered” and #OneLuckyGuy David Webb discussed the controversy today on “Outnumbered.” Listen to them sound off in the video above, and let us know where you stand in the comments below.