Closing The Gap

Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon: 'I will be 90' when the pay gap closes

Tamara Mellon says her new business model gives her an edge over her competitors. "The quality is incredible, but I don't mark my shoes up six times anymore, because I don't have to have wholesale margin in there. So my shoes are 50 percent less than what I used to charge."
Photo courtesy of Getty

Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon has more than 20 years of experience in the fashion industry, and she's seen first-hand the role that inequality plays at many of today's leading clothing brands.

In an interview with CNBC's Squawk Box, Mellon explains that the fashion industry is notorious when it comes to paying women unfairly for their work.

She says that because fashion brands "have had male executives for so long and the men have tended to promote men," many companies have a "lingering historical kind of bias that has been around" for years.

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According to an analysis of Spring/Summer 2017 fashion shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris, just 40 percent of the 371 designers represented were female. And despite the fact that women dominating enrollments at top institutions like New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, a 2016 survey found that women account for just 14 percent of executive roles at 50 major fashion brands.

Mellon says that to fix this issue, more companies will have to be transparent with their numbers and do an perform in-depth internal analyses to really understand the progress they need to make. She adds that employers will also have to honestly assess whether they're paying women equally to men.

"There should be a fair market analysis," she says. "So you shouldn't be paying someone lower just because you can get a woman for that."

Mellon emphasizes the impact your first salary can have on how much you make later in your career, and she encourages women who are just leaving college to ask for what they truly deserve when negotiating their first wage.

"When women leave college and go for the first interview they ask for less, so they have to learn to have better self-assessment and ask for more," she says.

And while Mellon urges women to fight for what they deserve, she still finds herself dismayed at the progress that remains to be made.

"When we looked at the numbers, we figured I will be 90 by the time [the pay gap] closes, if it continues at this rate," says the 50-year-old. "I want to close it by the time my daughter leaves college. She is 16."

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