A fair fight, according to designer Rachel Roy, isn’t always a polite fight.
That was some of the wisdom she shared at Fortune Magazine’s second Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, held this week at San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.
In speaking to Fortune assistant managing editor Leigh Gallagher, Roy described her experience with a former partnership with The Jones Group and her legal battle to maintain the rights to use her name after her business was acquired in 2013 by Sycamore Partners and it fired much of her staff.
“My customers think I design every piece,” she said. “And I do.”
The victory came, ultimately, after a chance meeting with Donald Trump’s lawyer when she was out to lunch with Melania Trump. She saw an article asking if he was “the most feared lawyer on Wall Street.”
“Perfect,” she said.
The key detail according to the judge, she said, was a sentence that stated she maintained creative control — including control over her name. “That was monumental,” Roy said to the crowd of females executives from business, government, philanthropy, education and the arts. “Now any designer can cite that.”
Roy also spoke about her experience of dressing Michelle Obama, and said she appreciates Obama’s conscious choice to support small business owners. “At the time she was wearing me,” said Roy, who’s seen her designs on the first lady on multiple occasions, “was the time I was really being given a hard time with my partners. But none of them could say something when the first lady is supporting you.”
Roy was among a range of high-profile women who shared personal anecdotes at the two-day conference. Earlier in the day, Uber’s head of global expansion Austin Geidt shared publicly for the first time her years-long battle with drug addiction before becoming Uber’s fourth employee. The night before, women’s soccer Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach spoke of her plans after retirement to focus her efforts on the gender equality gap, both in sports and more broadly.
YouTube chief executive officer Susan Wojcicki addressed the recent controversy of being asked about her five children while speaking at events like this year’s Dreamforce conference, hosted by Salesforce. She wasn’t offended, she said, but she did see both sides of the debate.
“That fact that I am a woman ceo and have five children is unusual, and I think other women want to understand,” she said, while speaking to Fortune’s Michale Lev-Ram. Still, she said, business events should be just about business, or that question needs to be one for both men and women.
“There is a time and place for people to talk about work-life balance and how you handle things, and I want to share my experience with other women — but in a forum where that’s what we’ve agreed to talk about beforehand.”
In a conversation about unconscious bias, Socos cofounder Vivienne Ming described how, after she transitioned to being a woman, she was treated differently as a scientist. “The day after,” she said, “people stopped asking me math questions.”