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New Bay Area Venture Fund Formed To Help Women Entrepreneurs

(KPIX 5) -- Despite more and more women advancing into corporate management and executive positions, the pay gap between men and women is not shrinking.

Women in California make about $7,000 less than men, the widest gap in 15 years, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And even when a woman is the boss, it doesn't necessarily mean she's paid equally - like the founder of Jimmy Choo.

Tamara Mellon co-founded the luxury shoe brand in 1996. It has become a global empire, but she learned how to grow the business the hard way.

"I was 27 years old when I founded Jimmy Choo," said Mellon. "I wanted to make beautiful shoes and I really didn't consider what it was to be a woman in the workplace."

Mellon was a major shareholder and the chief creative officer. But in reviewing paperwork in private equity deals, she discovered that she was getting paid less than the men who worked for her.

"It's very hurtful, actually because my blood, sweat and tears was in that company," said Mellon.

She was the only woman on the board at Jimmy Choo, a board which set her salary and turned down her request for a raise.

She was building a brand for women - ironically, with no other women on the board.  "Isn't that crazy?" said Mellon. "That is the craziest thing and if I could tell my younger self today one thing I would have said, 'speak up.'"

Mellon is speaking a lot these days - as an advocate for equal pay for women. She recently spoke about her experience at Jimmy Choo at the Shatter Summit in San Francisco, featuring influential Bay Area female entrepreneurs and hosted by venture capitalist Shelly Kapoor Collins.

"The problem is that women need their own network so men raise for men, they give to men, and now we need to take that and facilitate a girl's network, if you will," Kapoor Collins.

That's why Kapoor Collins started the Shatter Fund in San Francisco last year. It invests solely in women-led businesses.

Today, only six percent of all venture capital investors are women, and only three percent of investor funding is given to female founders, according to Shatter Fund.

"When there is a woman involved in the investment making process, such as I am, a female entrepreneur is two-and-a-half times more likely to get the capital she needs to start her business," said Kapoor Collins.

Just ask CEO Lynn Perkins of San Francisco-based Urbansitter, an on-demand app connecting parents with babysitters.

"When there are women investors in the room, especially those that have children, it's a lot easier to sell the emotional part of what we're doing and why we're motivated about our business," said Perkins.

Kapoor Collins invested $25,000 in Perkin's startup, which now serves 200,000 users nationwide.

Today, Mellon is at the helm of her own namesake shoe brand - Tamara Mellon - an e-commerce business. It's run by a female CEO.

"I pretty much have a female team, except for three people, and we're very conscious now about how we build the culture," said Mellon.

Her advice to young female bosses who find themselves outnumbered in the valley today? "Ask yourself, 'Who's the woman at the table?'" said Mellon. "Or ask yourself, 'Who's the woman gonna be at our table?'"

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