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TheBoardlist Founder Sukhinder Singh Cassidy and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff have a candid conversation about gender discrimination in tech. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy is calling BS on tech industry leaders who avoid hiring female candidates because they don’t want to “lower the bar.”

In an on-stage interview at the GeekWire Summit, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff asked Singh Cassidy, a longtime tech exec and serial entrepreneur, how she responds to people who make that claim.

“The irony I find about people using the phrase ‘lower the bar’ is I think Silicon Valley is built for people who have been given opportunity that they’re not qualified for,” she said, sparking a round of applause from the GeekWire Summit audience.

“I have never in my life had a job for which I qualified on paper,” she went on. “Not once. When I became a founder and an SVP of biz dev at the age of 29, I wasn’t qualified. Were you?”

Reflexively, Rascoff responded, “I was totally unqualified for every job I’ve had in tech.”

The tech industry is about taking chances on people and overly scrutinizing the qualifications of female candidates is just another form of discrimination, Singh Cassidy said.

Correcting that kind of discrimination is the mission of Singh Cassidy’s startup, theBoardlist, a talent marketplace where CEOs and executives with board experience can nominate women for board service. The duo discussed correcting the gender imbalance in tech and why the landscape is changing for women during the GeekWire Summit interview, which will double as an episode of Rascoff’s “Office Hours” podcast.

Singh Cassidy is optimistic about the future for women in tech for three reasons. One, we’re seeing more women build successful companies. Two, women are using technology to share their stories and find solutions to bring more gender equity to tech, as she is with theBoardlist.

Plus, there’s this:

“There has been loss,” she said of companies that have suffered by failing to correct these issues. “There has been bravery. There has been power loss, financial loss. For the first time, there have been repercussions to being a bad actor in this ecosystem.”

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