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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.

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Photo Credit: Michael Stewart/Getty Images

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SERENA WILLIAMS

In June 2002, tennis champion Serena Williams beat her sister Venus at the French Open final, drawing twice as many TV viewers as the men's final earlier that week. But the prize money awarded was $18,000 less than that of the male champion, Albert Costa. The next month, when Williams defeated her sister at Wimbledon, the women's final overshadowed the men's in the ratings once again—yet she earned $56,000 less in prize money than Lleyton Hewitt. The pay discrepancy wasn't lost on Williams: Along with Venus and a cadre of young female tennis stars credited with re-energizing the women's game, she championed for equal pay in the sport in the press, much like Billie Jean King did in the 1970s. "It was important to make sure the public saw us as equal," she says, "and to make sure the prize money was the same amount as the men's."

At the heart of the debate over equal pay in tennis were critics who charged that women should get less because they play less—women play best-of-three sets per match while men play best-of-five. Williams didn't buy it. "We were more than happy to play five sets if that's what it took," she says. (Tennis officials balk at letting women play five sets, she says, because it would extend the tournament's time on TV.) The women persisted, and finally, in 2007, the French Open and Wimbledon caved, offering men and women the same award. "It's not about female or male—it's about tennis," says Williams. "Why should someone be given less because of her sex?" —Yael Kohen


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