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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: Getty Images

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SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

"Back in December 2010, I was trying to pass the 9/11 health bill [to expand health care for 9/11 first responders]. It was the hardest fight I've had in Congress. The bill had lingered in the House for eight years; it hadn't even had a hearing. The first responders told their stories about coming to ground zero, what it was like to breathe in fumes and horrible toxins, and how they're now suffering from grave illnesses. We were talking about heroes' lives. It was a story that I felt I had to tell. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, who fought so hard to receive funding for her Hurricane Katrina victims, said, 'Kirsten, the most important thing you can do is let people know how passionate you feel about this.'

A number of Republicans were very reluctant to support the bill and tried to get me to start over in the next session of Congress. But I stood my ground. If I'd tried that, I probably would've failed to pass it, because you need to keep up the momentum. My mother and grandmother taught me the greatest life lessons that I used during that fight: Never give up, and don't get discouraged. It took us two years to get that bill up for a vote, and we finally passed it unanimously." —As told to W.J.


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