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May 16, 2013

Leveling the Paying Field

You know them as a tennis pro; a beloved actress and style icon; a megawatt journalist and talk show host; an award-winning fashion designer; and the junior senator from New York. But these five powerful women are also impressive negotiators at the top of their game. Here, they share their hardest fights—and give Marie Claire readers the tips they've learned along the way.


Photo Credit: Charles Eshelman/Getty Images

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"When I was offered the job at the Today show in 1991 as the full-time coanchor, I told the then president of NBC News, Michael Gartner, that I really didn't want the job if it wasn't going to be a 50/50 division of labor between Bryant Gumbel, the show's anchor at the time, and me. I didn't want to be relegated to all the soft stories involving cooking and lifestyle. I had worked hard to establish myself as a credible journalist: I'd covered the Pentagon and local news for many years, and I didn't want to be seen as the girly sidekick who couldn't handle the tough interviews.

The conversation with Michael followed a turbulent time on the show: I'd filled in for Deborah Norville during her maternity leave, and I thought I had a fresh face that would help the Today show turn the page. So perhaps I had more leverage in terms of asking for what I wanted. Michael came back to me and said, 'How about 52/48?' And I said, 'OK.' I felt it was a small but important victory, and it set the tone that I wanted. Bryant might have bristled a bit, but I think he respected the fact that I had worked hard and was willing to shake it up. At that time, I was less concerned with salary than with responsibility. [Gumbel was paid twice as much as Couric.] I was new and largely unproven. Rather than expect parity immediately, I thought, Let's see how it goes. As I became more successful, salary increases followed."


BE DIRECT, BUT DON'T THREATEN. "I didn't say, 'I'm not staying here if this doesn't happen.' It was more, 'This is really important to me.' I delivered it in a strong and direct but appropriate tone. That's how I've always tried to operate."

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. "Every boss is different. You need to really understand the person—their likes, dislikes, how they feel. Do they spend 24/7 in the office? Then cater the negotiation with those things in mind." —As told to Y.K.

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