MSNBC Anchor Discusses The Power Of Knowing Your Value In Order To Get A Raise

Photo: Courtesy of MSNBC.

There are a number of books and websites out there that aim to empower women in the workplace. They tell us to lean in, or play like a man, or encourage us to be a #GIRLBOSS. Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, zeroed in on one specific topic in her 2012 best-seller, Knowing Your Value: How to get the raise you deserve.

There is no shortage of disturbing statistics about wage inequality in the United States. A woman working full-time makes 78 cents to the dollar that a man makes. It’s an even bigger disparity for women of color. While there is much talk about passing a Paycheck Fairness Act, women can take steps on their own to ensure that they are getting compensated for the work they do.

That’s where Brzezinski and her wise words come in. She encourages women to understand their worth in the workplace, to own that power, and to use it to leverage a raise. And, she’s taking her advice to a whole new level this year by offering a series of workshops in cities across the U.S., where women can come and learn the skills needed to know their worth and ask for what they deserve. Brzezinski is beyond excited about the conferences: “Every woman who goes will walk out with a stronger voice and a better voice.”

We had the chance to chat with the busy anchor and writer earlier this week to get some insight on how we can all overcome these struggles that so many women, from office assistants to CEOs, face.

The idea of asking for a raise can be terrifying. How do you get over your initial fears?

"That’s how most women feel... They feel terrified. They feel guilty. They feel apologetic. They feel self-deprecating. They feel like it's unattractive. They feel like it's inappropriate. They feel like people aren't going to like them and that matters. I mean, it's amazing. All of those instincts, which really are instincts on our part, are totally irrelevant to what you should really be bringing to the table, and that is your value, an articulate presentation of your value. There are tools — there are ways women can immediately find a better voice, and there are ways they can kick themselves of the habit of making the mistakes that, quite frankly, leave money on the table in the long run."

How can this advice apply to young women just starting their careers, who have struggled to find jobs in a bad economy, and who might just feel thankful to have any paycheck? Oftentimes, there is a fear that if you ask for too much, you could risk losing that hard-won job.


“I think being grateful for a job is just fine. You just can't live going, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for every job and project you take on. At some point, you have to stand on your own two feet and understand, ‘I can do this. They're lucky to have me.’

“If it's your first job, you're learning more than you're contributing, and that’s fine. But, when you're getting coffee and running around and doing copies and downloading stuff and trying to bring people to the door or welcoming guests and being a host at an office, do it really well. Do everything you're asked, even the smallest thing, perfectly. That will be noticed, and then more responsibility will be handed to you. Maybe an extra project will be given to you. So, the goals for a young person during their first job ought to be to take that first job seriously and not constantly appear to your boss like you're looking over her shoulder at that next job, because it won't come, if that’s all you're doing.

“Watch your boss negotiate, listen to phone calls, listen to conversations, see how it's done. Those first few jobs are a window into your future, and you learn a lot about how to negotiate, or how — or why — something didn’t work.  

“Let it all seep in and develop your own voice, and develop your own brand as well. It'll take a good five, 10 years to get a brand going, to get a life going, to get a sense of who you are and what you want to be doing. So, for millennials, it's calm down, you don’t need to do this perfectly now, but definitely listen.”

Advertisement
In your book Knowing Your Value, you’re very open about the problems you had with a female boss who you felt was holding you back. The issue of women undermining women is almost as problematic as men undermining women. How can we stop perpetuating this?

"There's a sea change happening...there's a lot of us here now, and we’re realizing it's more valuable to band together. I think mentorships are kind of like an old tool, because women used to not get along. Now, we just all — I mean, I'm a mentor to, like, a hundred women that I don’t even know that I'm a mentor to, because that’s what I do. Women are not used to being more than one of them in the room and there was a competition. There was some sort of something that made us afraid of each other.

"I also wrote that women found a way to tap into our fears much better than men. Like when I asked my [male] boss for a raise, he just said no. He didn’t use all this subversive stuff to try and push me away. It's just like, no. Do I need to give you one? 

"I mean, I tried four different times. I finally got it, because I did it the right way.

"[But] there was a high-level [female] vice president who's not [at MSNBC] anymore who kept pulling me aside and saying, ‘You know, Mika, you don’t want to ask for this raise. You really need to stop, because people aren't going to like you and you're going to get a bad reputation.’ And that, as a woman, tapping into another woman's fears that people aren't going to like her. Why did she do that? Because, she knows that bothers us. We need to get over that bothering us. What I should have said to her was, ‘That’s cool. So what's worse? People not liking me, or you not having a host on Morning Joe tomorrow morning? What's your choice?’ That would have been the correct answer, you know? Instead, I like literally cringed and caved away and was like, ‘Oh, my God, people aren't going to like me? How horrible.’ I went back and told Joe what happened, and he was like, ‘Who cares? Who cares they don’t like you?’ So, you know, I do think we can be our own worst enemies."

Tell us a little bit about the Knowing Your Value events.

"We're going to go to five cities, and we're going to have very engaging, interactive, workshop-like events where women are given tangible, useful tools on every level of presenting your value and getting your best value out of a relationship. You know, we use money at a lot of these events, and negotiating as sort of a metaphor for navigating any relationship in your life. Because, if you don’t know your value, you don’t get your full value in return. But, money could be replaced by health. Your relationship with yourself could be replaced by parenting. Your relationship with your kids could be replaced by spouses. Your relationship and your marriage as your career grows, and how you balance it all. So, we're going to be tackling all those conversations and giving women tools on what to do and what not to do when they're at the negotiating table and they're closing the deal. And, we're going to have so much fun."

For more information on the Knowing Your Value conferences and how to register, visit the campaign's website.
Advertisement