Ladies, Still Underpaid and Overlooked? Start “Knowing Your Value” with Mika Brzezinski

by Lennon, Dawn Friday, June 10, 2011
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Women have seemingly limitless career opportunities. If we’re smart enough, tough enough, and driven enough, we can get where we want to go. But will we get paid for our value?

Women have different career obstacles to overcome, in most cases, then men. The most challenging is often ourselves.

Mika Brzezinski unplugged

Her new book, Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth, is an amazingly open account of the inner-workings of on-air journalism and its impact on one woman’s career. Its impact grows from the stream of revelations from accomplished and powerful women from many careers who share similar experiences.

In a way, this book about the under-the-radar sisterhood of shared struggles and triumphs in the business world, and how some “sistas” don’t play nice.

Mika Brzezinski is the co-host of the MSNBC morning cable news show, Morning Joe, with former Florida congressman, Joe Scarbourgh, the show’s creator.

She had been an on-air TV news personality for many years, including a stint with CBS as weekend news anchor and a 60 Minutes program contributor until she lost her job.

This plunged her back into the job search which was more like a work search, looking for any opportunity she could find. As she writes in her book, “…you are only as good as your last minute on air.” She found that when you’re not visible, you’re easily forgotten.

I’d assumed that everyone we see on TV makes either “good” or “amazing” money. That’s not necessarily the case. We, as viewers, don’t know if the person behind the desk is a co-host with a lucrative contract and set hours or a freelancer who can be asked to fill in anytime at a moment’s notice.

That’s what happened to Mika. For a time, on Morning Joe, even though she was essential to the show’s ratings, she was paid 14 times less than Joe Scarborough and significantly less then the other men on the show. For a long time, she just lived with it.

Wake up call

Mika faced the same reality that most women face:”…women everywhere still make less” than men.

So why was she letting this happen to her? She writes: “Looking back, I realize that every time I sat at the negotiating table, my greatest enemy was myself.”

Her book chronicles the pervasive reasons why women don’t know their value and can’t, don’t, or won’t negotiate its worth when they do.

She recounts her own mistakes, echoed and expanded on by women like Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama; Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, Suze Orman, personal-finance expert, and Carol Bartz, Facebook COO.

Mika tells us: The biggest hurdle for women is to assemble the objective facts that define their value.

The next is to find out what others, making comparable contributions, are earning, particularly the men.

Making your move

In her chapter, “At the Bargaining Table: Table Manners and Tactical Maneuvers,” Mika lays out key strategies and tactics like:

  • “Negotiate Like a Powerful Woman: …come to the table with information and alternatives, not just a catalog of emotions and self doubt

  • Know Your Contributions and Their Market Value…Prior to that meeting, you are to give your boss a one-page outline of your achievements. Not ten pages—one page.

  • How Not to Ask:
    • ‘I know you’re busy.’
    • ‘I don’t know if this is possible….’
    • ‘I’m sorry if this is bad timing.’

  • How to Ask: …explain why a raise would make sense to the person you’re talking with and to the company as a whole…[Then say], ‘I expect you’ll be fair to me.’”

Overcoming our misconceptions

Knowing Your Value is a storehouse of insights, gripping accounts, and practical information, artfully assembled and beautifully written into 186 pages.

It’s a frank reminder that, in business, our value is denoted by what we’re paid. Knowing your value, respecting it, and taking steps to get compensated for it ensures ongoing success and expanding opportunities.

If we don’t value ourselves, it’s unlikely anyone else will. I recommend you read Mika’s book. You owe it to yourself.