Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski: A Book Review

Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth, recounts her own painful experience of co-hosting the MSNBC political talk show Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough while he was paid fourteen times more than her. Brzezinski describes common mind-sets and missteps that got her into this frustrating and humiliating position—and kept her stuck there for a long time. She also shares tips from interviews with several successful women about how to get paid what you are worth.

Common Mistakes that Many Women Make

Brzezinski discovered that she was not alone in making these common mistakes:
  • Using ineffective negotiating strategies.
  • Accepting low pay for a new job, knowing it is not competitive, but taking it because you feel lucky to get the position.
  • Assuming that working hard to prove yourself will result in raises and promotions.
  • Not asking for what you’re worth.
  • Not owning your success and not taking credit for your accomplishments.
  • Accepting approval from a boss instead of money.
  • Valuing loyalty to a boss or organization instead of taking your career seriously—sometimes you have to quit and go someplace else to get more money and responsibility.
  • Accepting, or internalizing, beliefs that women are not as capable as men.

How to Get Paid What You Are Worth

Brzezinski interviewed several successful women, including Sheryl Sandberg, Valerie Jarrett, Tina Brown, Linda Babcock, Anna Quindlen, Arianna Huffington, and others, and shares many of their tips for getting paid what you’re worth, including the following advice:
  • Do not try to negotiate like a man because being assertive can work against a woman (one of the double binds we face). Instead, women need to communicate why the request is in the best interest of the organization. Document your achievements and state in clear terms what value you have brought to the organization.
  • One interviewee, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz suggested that “the best way to get men to listen is to complement them.”
  • Linda Babcock, author of Women Don’t Ask, said, “When women go in to negotiate, they have to do it by being ‘relentlessly pleasant’ . . . with a big smile on your face.”
  • Anna Quindlen advised that when negotiating for a raise or promotion, “Women have to be tough as nails and warm as toast.” Not one or the other, but both at the same time.
  • Do your homework and come to the negotiating table with information and alternatives. Offer your boss a choice and never ask yes or no questions.
  • Don’t apologize or overexplain.
  • Be ready to walk.
I am glad to be able to report that Brzezinski does acknowledge in her book that the gender wage gap is the result of a systemic problem where women are institutionally undervalued and where unconscious bias creates barriers for women. At the same time she describes clearly the ways that we collude in being undervalued and underpaid when we enact mind-sets and utilize ineffective negotiating strategies that work against us in the masculine world of the workplace. We must stay conscious of the double binds that we face when negotiating—but there is solid advice in this book about how to get paid what we’re worth!]]>