Saturday, July 9, 2011

Audiobook Review: Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski

Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You're WorthKnowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You're Worth by Mika Brzezinski; read by Coleen Marlo. This book is an interesting combination of memoir, sociological study and manifesto; Mika Brezezinski, co-host of Morning Joe, shares her struggles for equal pay, explores the data regarding pay discrepancies between men and women, and has successful women and men from a variety of fields offer their anecdotes and advice.  The result is an engaging audiobook which gives you something to consider regarding your place in the workforce and the value others, but most importantly you, place on it.

Mika Brzenzinski opens her book by revealing that, despite a successful career in TV news, she struggled to make ends meet each month and was grossly underpaid in many of the jobs she held.  As she joined Joe Scarborough on the new show, Morning Joe, she found her niche and was energized by her work.  However, the work was never ending as she spent many hours off camera trying to secure guests and preparing for the next day's show.  She wasn't bothered by this extra work until she learned her co-host was earning 14 times her salary!  It was then that she started to examine where she had gone wrong in the salary negotiation game throughout her career and she amassed advice and data on how to navigate a workforce with entrenched inequities between men and women.  Below are a few lessons I learned from the author and her famous guests including Nora Ephron, Donnie Deutsch, Cheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Valerie Jarrett (Senior Advisor to President Obama):

  1. Saying you have been "lucky" diminishes your value: Many women - and I count myself among them - will say they have been "lucky" when asked about success in their career.  By attributing success to luck as opposed to your skills, you devalue you own worth.
  2. Never be apologetic when asking for a raise: You must negotiate from a place of strength and a true understanding of your value to the organization or team.  If you apologize for asking for a raise, you give your boss an "out" and they immediately question if you deserve the raise when you feel the need to apologize for the imposition. Also, you don't "need" the raise because of extraneous issues in your personal life (children or elderly parents to care for) but you deserve the raise because of the value you bring to the team.
  3. Behave authentically: Although some of the pay discrepancies between men and women can be attributed to their different styles and approaches, you must still conduct yourself in a way in which you are comfortable and "fits"  you.  Adopting the brash, outspoken style of a male colleague may not be successful for you -especially if you are visibly uncomfortable.
  4. Do your research: Understand how much people are paid in your role at your own company but also at competitors.  You can't negotiate if you don't know how much the market will bear. Men are often very comfortable discussing salaries and therefore have the inside track on how much they should be paid.  By being reticent to discuss money, women often hurt themselves in the salary department.
  5. Hard work is not enough:  Women often diligently assume tasks men would not and think this will be recognized but without self-promotion it goes unnoticed.  Women may not be comfortable with self-promotion but it is necessary in order to get what you deserve.  I have seen this first hand and have finally accepted that hard work and results won't always speak for themselves.
This audiobook, at just over 4 hours, is the perfect length for this topic - it allowed for the inclusion of varied anecdotes from contributors and a smattering of research and data on pay inequity.  A more in-depth examination of the research would have been tedious while the amount the author did include provided the right context for the points she made.  I recommend listening to this (or reading the book) before you go into your boss's office to ask for your next raise!


  1. That's a good tip they point out about asking for raises!

  2. The age-old salary discrepancy is always worth mentioning. As long as women continue to do all of the things you list out among the helpful hints, we will never earn equal pay. It doesn't mean we have to act exactly like the men, but we can learn from them when it comes to discussions about pay and the art of self-promotion. This sounds like a wonderful, and quick, way to reinforce these lessons. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and pointing out some helpful hints!

  3. This sounds like a great book! And I definitely appreciate your own thoughts and insights into this topic. The world of work can be a tough place for women!

  4. I sooooo agree with the point about "lucky" ... when people say I've been lucky, I just laugh and reply, "Working my behind off for years and taking chances to go after my dream didn't make me lucky. Lucky is winning the lottery!"

  5. If you liked this book you might also check out Why Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office. I almost never read business books, but that one made me change a few things permanently that I still pay attention to today, 10 yeares after I read it. The tip on never be apologetic should be for EVERYTHING in a woman's career, not just for raise-asking. Unless you truly screwed something up that deserves an apology (and only one!), we should own our successes, and while yes we should learn from our failures, we don't need to dwell on them and certainly never point them out to others.

  6. I read her first memoir and was surprised at how good it was. She had a real no-nonsense style of reading that was literate and interesting. I am amazed that they were paying Joe Scarborough 14x what she made; she had already made a new for herself in tv news long before she was on that show :(

    I am going to look for this one. I am surprised somewhat that she didn't narrate the book herself given her experience in broadcasting.

  7. I've heard great things about this one. Great review.