Despite the heavy rain on October 11, Sixth & I Historic Synagogue was a packed house for an interesting book talk in Washington, D.C. Katty Kay of BBC News interviewed MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski about the re-release of her book, Know Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What Your Worth. Brzezinski, perhaps best known for her co-hosting role on hit news show Morning Joe on MSNBC, has made big strides with her advice to women and how they can succeed in their careers since the original book came out in 2011.
She saw the results herself as happy women approached her at events through the years, telling her how they got pay raises or achieved other successes. In addition to reading this new edition of Know Your Value, women can peruse many resources through Brzezinski’s website.
Kay and Brzezinski came to the topic of President Donald Trump right away: in particular, his June 2017 tweets insulting Brzezinski. “Ten years before, perhaps, I would have been horrified,” she told the audience. “[I] wouldn’t have gone to work the next day. But having written this book, really talked with women across the country, and developed my own voice, I also had a lot of perspective that day.”
Brzezinski had already been dealing with recent tragedies such as the death a close friend as well as the death of her father, diplomat and political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski. She found Trump’s tweets to be an annoyance and they bothered her more on a larger level. She reflected, “It actually showed him to be so unbelievably pathetic that I had a hard time getting beyond that. He’s a misogynist. I think he’s horrific [in] his attitudes toward women … He’s racist, and I think he’s an embarrassment to us internationally.”
Kay steered the conversation to Brzezinski’s firing from CBS and just starting out with MSNBC on freelance work, ultimately landing the career-changing job at Morning Joe. Brzezinski acknowledged there was a huge series of missteps on her part. “I was like every woman you’ve ever met at work – just happy to be there,” she said.
She missed her moment to negotiate a good contract for herself, while co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist secured great pay raises. When she admitted that the pay differential was “about 14 times,” a magnitude that elicited audible gasps and groans from the audience.
The book details many of Brzezinski’s mistakes, which can serve as valuable lessons for how other women shouldn’t go about it. The key takeaway is that how you carry yourself in the workplace speaks volumes about the respect you’ll earn from your peers and management.
Brzezinski elaborated on the problems,
I walked into a room apologizing for even being there. I talked self-deprecating, you know, which we do all the time [and] basically depreciates our value in real time. I didn’t know how to press reset when I’d have to go back a second or a third time. I’d carried all that failure and pain from it with me in there.
To overcome these challenges, women should become well-versed in excellent communication skills: maintaining eye contact, speaking clearly, and understanding where to pause or slow down. According to Brzezinski, they can practice at church, at parties, and other public functions among friends. “[If] you haven’t practiced that, what makes you think it’s going to work when it matters? This is the responsibility I put on every woman in the room: no one is going to speak for you, you need to practice,” she said.
Brzezinski’s exhortation is a powerful one that all women should take to heart. It’s a path that comes with risks, but it’s okay to press reset and persevere through the hurdles. Women should also support each other, whether through peer-to-peer or supervisor-employee relationships.
Not everyone will agree along the way. As Brzezinski stated, “We have to get used to that. To have a great moment of friction is interesting. We all grow from it. Passive aggressive or the passive reactions are very destructive.”
What’s next for Mika Brzezinski? You can watch her weekday mornings on Morning Joe on MSNBC. Women on the West Coast can attend her Know Your Value National Event in San Francisco, California, on December 1.