KEEPING THEIR DAY JOBS: Hardworking as she is, Tory Burch buzzed by Marie Claire’s Women Taking the Lead lunch Monday, long enough to accept her award and to reminisce with the crowd about how in high school she worked at a Benetton perfecting the art of folding sweaters. There was also a not-so lucrative summer spent at a Kodiak, Alaska, fish cannery which resulted in her parents having to spring for her return flight home. Now at the helm of a company that employs 2,100, of which 80 percent are women, Burch said it is not a matter of gender bias on any level. Building the company, she made sure that equal rights and flexibility were part of its bedrock. Equal pay was the topic of the day, since Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.

Another honoree, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, reminded the crowd that women still are paid 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. And for African-American and Latino women, that figure is 68 cents and 59 cents, respectively. “If we paid women dollar-for-dollar what men earn, we would raise the U.S. GDP by up to 9 percent,” she said. “The key to growing the economy, the key to achieving a thriving middle class, the key for every family in this country to achieve the American dream is women.”

This story first appeared in the June 11, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

French Open winner Serena Williams couldn’t make the event as planned but as Marie Claire publisher Nancy Berger Cardone noted, “That’s a pretty good excuse.”

Introducing Sarah Jessica Parker, Marie Claire editor in chief Anne Fulenwider clued into the crowd to the fact that her first job in New York was a one-day assignment working as a production assistant for the actress’ movie “If Lucy Fell.” “Not the biggest box office hit,” Parker chimed in from her seat.

Dressed down in skinny jeans, the “Sex and the City” star kept the laughs going by telling guests how she had initially declined the honor, claiming others were more deserving. Parker also said she thought the Marea lunch was going to be far more casual with recipients giving their remarks from their seats. “To see a podium, microphone and then Tory Burch whips out branded note cards — I mean serious teacher’s pet,” Parker said.

Katie Couric also played things loose to a crowd that included Norah O’Donnell, LVMH’s Pauline Brown, Bulgari’s Alberto Festa, Desiree Gruber and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Wearing glasses borrowed from Parker, Couric said she penned her remarks on the back of a menu. The news-anchor-turned-talk-show-host said she always jokes that she started in TV when harass was two words. “That always gets a delayed laugh,” she said. Couric struck a more serious note recalling how when she became the first female evening news anchor, there was feedback about her makeup, the way she held her head or her wearing a white jacket after Labor Day. She also made mention of how decades before, while earning a paycheck scooping ice cream cones, one male customer asked if her right breast was larger than her left one. Well aware that her remarks were veering off-course, Couric laughed, “This is one of the risks of not preparing my remarks.”

Afterwards, Couric denied that there are plans to cancel her talk show, or that she is in talks at CNN where her former “Today” show boss Jeff Zucker now calls the shots. Asked if she is talking to CNN, she said, “No. Honestly, I don’t know where people get this stuff. No, no, I am focused on the show.”