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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: Jeff Moore/splash news/corbis

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Marie Claire: What was your toughest negotiation?

Sarah Jessica Parker: I was brought in to help run a fashion company for about a year (although I don't want to name names). I was shocked to experience an old-fashioned attitude about women and business: Women had titles but were treated as figureheads. So it wasn't one negotiation, but an ongoing negotiation to make clear that my voice was just as important, and that if they wanted me to be an active participant, it had to be an open conversation.

MC: How did you deal with it?

SJP: I was on the executives constantly. I would get on the phone and say, "Hello, Sir A, I just had a conversation with Sir B. You need to know that X information was shared. We all have to be candid with each other. I don't feel comfortable with any sidebar conversations."

MC: Did you seek any outside advice?

SJP: I called my lawyer and agent on occasion. But I'm not a little girl; I can't call Mommy and Daddy all the time. If I take on a responsibility, I want to handle it with the authority given to me.

MC: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?

SJP: I would've been stronger. At first you say, "This must be some kind of dysfunctional workplace I can whip into shape." But cultures are very hard to undo. I probably would've said, "This is what I've witnessed and this is what I know we need to fix. If it can't be fixed, we should all shake hands and go our separate ways."


EDUCATE YOURSELF. "I like to have every bit of information at my fingertips. I spend the 15 minutes before complicated business conversations going over important bullet points."

LISTEN. "I'm genuinely interested in how the other side responds. I like to hear what's important to them, their circumstances, and information they have that I might not."

DON'T HOLD GRUDGES. "If you're going to be resentful about that final agreement, then don't do it—you'll always feel taken advantage of. You have to go into a [working relationship] feeling good about where both parties arrive." —Y.K.

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