Jimmy Choo Founder Tamara Mellon: On Why Workplaces Need To Pay Up
Last year on Equal Pay Day, Jimmy Choo Founder Tamara Mellon shared with Forbes how she became aware, while working at Jimmy Choo, that she was being given only half as much equity as the male CEO who was working for her. As a result of this Mellon says that she lost millions of dollars.
“It meant that my work as a woman was not valued the same as the men who were working for me - in a company I founded,” she says.
Mellon founded Jimmy Choo because all she wanted to do was make shoes. She had no idea the bias and sexism she was going to face as a woman in business. “It really just comes from the lingering historical cultural bias that undervalues women’s work,” she says.
Since then Mellon has gone on to launch her own direct-to-consumer, luxury shoe brand Tamara Mellon in 2013. Now, she shares what her organization is doing to ensure pay equality and what all organizations can do to close the pay gap.
Michelle King: Last year on Equal Pay Day you shared your story. How important is it for women to share their stories – whether it’s about unequal pay or #MeToo?
Tamara Mellon: I think it is really important now to get support groups and females to speak up about it. Without awareness, you tend to get this feeling that you are going it alone which is the worst feeling. I feel like if I had reached out to more women and had support I probably would have ended up in a better place. I would not have felt so alone. It is difficult to do this on your own.
King: It is not always easy to speak up though. Women are often concerned they will be perceived negatively. What is your experience with this?
Mellon: Part of why I didn’t speak up is because I didn’t want to appear difficult. There are so many myths around women in business that are simply not true. One is that women are not team players. Another is that women are divas. These are all myths. Research shows women are absolutely team players and when we negotiate something we want everyone to win. So, all these myths need to be debunked. I was almost trapped by the myths. I was scared to speak up.
We need a big cultural shift. It starts with teaching young men and women and changing the cultural stereotypes. We know that when young women leave college their first salary is lower than a man’s and that impacts their whole career. There is about a million dollars lost over a whole woman’s career just because she starts out lower. If I had valued myself more, I definitely would have spoken up more.
King: Can you share what your organization is doing to tackle the issue?
Mellon: Obviously, the size of a company matters. With my new business, it is a start-up. We make sure that we have fair market value pay – whether male or female. We have given equity to everyone who works at the company, so they really feel invested and a part of the team. I also have a female CEO, which for the first time in my life feels like I have a true partner rather than an arranged marriage. We are now 90 percent women. We are constantly coming up with new ways to create change and build awareness of the issue.
King: What can other organizations do?
Mellon: My own industry is one of the biggest culprits of unequal pay. So, I think transparency is really important. We need to have self-checks and balances. Without real data, you don’t know what is going on.
King: What can women start doing today to overcome this issue?
Mellon: What men are very good at doing is asking for help and we tend to think that we must solve everything on our own. It’s critical that women ask for help and get a support group of people in similar industries. We tend to think that we need to solve all our own problems. We don’t. I look back now (on my career) and wonder why I didn’t call people and ask for advice? Why did I feel that I had to figure it out on my own? This was actually very damaging to my career. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Michelle King is a leading global gender equality expert, with a focus on advancing women in the changing world of work. To stay up to date follow Michelle @michpking.