MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski: Championing Women in the Workplace
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski asks the tough questions we are afraid to ask.
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When I received Mika Brzezinski new book Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You're Worth, it was a book I took home and devoured. I’m not in the habit of endorsing books, but after reading Brzezinski’s investigation into why women are their own worst enemy in corporate America, I was hooked.
Through her numerous interviews with Donald Trump and many other executives, Brzezinski asks the tough questions we are afraid to ask. It’s no surprise. The out-spoken broadcaster and co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe protested running a tabloid piece instead of a news segment (Paris Hilton's release from jail). She did this live and didn't back down. Brzezinski shares this no-nonsense approach in her newest book by giving practical tips on what not to say during your career, like deleting “I’m sorry out of your vocabulary”. She knows—she learned the hard way.
Here’s her interview.
Were you fearful that you made yourself vulnerable by tackling equality in the workplace in this book?
Yes actually, I was. I wrote the book and then thought to myself, “oh dear how is this going to get past legal?” I sat down with MSNBC president Phil Griffin and went through the entire book with him page by page and even though the book casts a tough light on both him and me he barely changed two words. And said to me, “Mika I think this is an important story to tell.” bottom line, honesty and transparency have enhanced my value and have definitely not made me more vulnerable. It was absolutely worth the risk.
How has writing this book been therapeutic for you? Has it helped you overcome personal hurdles? If so, what were they?
It absolutely has been therapeutic. Because the problems I talk about are problems I still struggle with everyday. I think women have a hard time not apologizing their way into negotiations. We tend to back in to these conversations in a self-deprecating and ultimately self-defeating way. Everyday I find myself reminding women around me to know their value. I also have to remind myself.
You talked about coming to grips with your value in the market place after being laid-off by CBS. How did you keep your focus to achieve this?
The career rebuilding came first, and esteem came later. At almost forty years old, I assumed my career on camera was over. And I was certainly given that message by all the TV managers and news directors who passed on me when I was trying to get a job back in the business. But when I started applying for a job outside of my industry and actually was about to nail down an offer in PR, that’s when I knew that my first love was television. And in order to be true to myself, I would have to start all over again. Long story short, I got myself a part-time night job on MSNBC that I would have laughed at 15 years ago. It was a big step back, but it’s why I am here today.
How can we as women overcome struggles of self-worth in the workplace?
We have to start talking about our worth to our managers as easy as we talk about the actual work that we’re doing. We have to unclutter our brains from worries that maybe people don’t like us. Women tend to worry about popularity; it doesn’t matter if they like you. They need to respect you. They need to show that respect for you in your pay check. And that needs to be okay.
What practical tips can you give women who can’t seem to break the cycle of fear and demand more money?
NUMBER 1. Stop using the word I’m sorry in any conversation for every reason. Cut it out. You are not sorry. Stop saying it.
NUMBER 2. DON’T play the victim. It’s nobody’s fault if you have problems and can’t pay your rent or can’t take care of your kids. Your work is the reason you should be paid more money. Do that math in your head, and others will follow suit.
NUMBER 3. Get used to talking in uncomfortable situations. Negotiating is never pretty. Awkward silences are a good thing, an effective tool, use them. Sit there and wait for the person at the other side of the table to fill the room with words.
NUMBER 4. And this one’s my favorite – I can’t say it enough. It doesn’t matter if they like you. They only need to respect you.
Most women don’t like to see other women succeed, so we become our own worst enemies. How can we rise above this?
First of all, this question is 100 percent true. Women do this to each other because for some sick reason they feel the only way they can increase their chances at success is to bring other women down. All I can say is that I lead by example. I help women in a real, tangible (in the form of money and promotion) way, and sorry, but I think that helps my career.
The book touched on how working harder to get recognition is not the answer to gaining raises and promotions. This was real eye-opener! When Elle’s Carol Smith explained this, did it take you time to process and accept this yourself?
No. it actually was the most honest conversation I’ve ever had. Carol smith was talking about what we all do. We work really hard and just assume someone will notice. Men work hard too, but believe me; they make sure the world knows. If they find out that “Sam” or “Joe” is making more than them, they’ll make noise.
What were Joe’s thoughts on this project?
Joe knew my value before I did. His role in the book is unconventional. But I think it proves that he’s a smart business man and unlike many of the men in my industry, actually keeps his word. There would be no “Morning Joe” without “Morning mica,” and he was the first to know that.