Women need to know their value

Mika Brzezinski, of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” speaks on a tour that hopes to empower working women.

YESTERDAY was Equal Pay Day - an annual observance that should be despised by all.

That's the day symbolizing how far into the new year the average woman must work just to earn what the average man in the same job did the previous year. According to the Pew Research Center, women have to log an average of 60 extra days just to reach parity.

It's a damn shame.

That's why I want to give a shout-out to my new BFF-in-my-head Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." My "bestie" was in Philly last week kicking off her "Know Your Value" tour, which was all about encouraging working women to fight for fatter paychecks.

"We leave money on the table . . . ," she complained on stage at the Loews Hotel Philadelphia as about 500 women listened. "It's time for it to stop."

She ought to know.

During her early years at MSNBC's "Morning Joe," girlfriend meekly accepted what she was given in her paycheck. She focused on being the best co-host she could be and hoped that the money would sort itself out. Meanwhile, she was bouncing checks and spending inordinate amounts of her own money on clothes, hair appointments and makeup just to wear on the show.

"I took the deal they told me I would get," she explained.

The fact that she didn't raise holy hell is typical. Too often, we women feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic of compensation. And when we do, it's not always received well. Take for example a scenario mentioned by "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough:

"A woman does an extraordinary thing; [she] goes and asks for a raise. They end up patting her on the back, giving her a compliment saying, 'Great job.' And how many women have told you, 'That's enough'?" he pointed out on Friday. "They go back and they're happy for about a week and a half."

"Or like they get earrings. Or a gift or something," Brzezinski quipped back. "No gifts, thanks."

Confidence also is a huge issue, even among uber-successful women. (I see this a lot among my own set of friends. Women who are accomplished but who whisper that they are just faking it.)

"Sheryl Sandberg [of Facebook] told us she goes into meetings and still feels like a fraud," pointed out Katty Kay, a BBC anchor and co-author of The Confidence Code.

"You can find it wherever you go. Those feelings that you have, that maybe you don't deserve to be there, that maybe you're just lucky. Don't think you're the only one," added Kay, a Know Your Value co-presenter. "Almost every woman in this room is feeling it. I know Mika and I have talked about this. We feel it, too. So you're not the only one."

During her presentation, she mentioned a business school in the U.K. that asks students how much they expect to earn five years after graduation. The female students say $64,000; the males $80,000.

"Do we think that we are 20 percent less valuable? Because we know that we are not," Kay continued. "We have loads of competence. What we need is confidence."

Or else a bestie like Brzezinski to nudge us to go for that raise when we need it.


The next stop on the Know Your Value tour is May 15 in Washington, D.C. Tickets are $225. For more information, log onto msnbc.com/knowyourvalue.

On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen

Email: armstrj@phillynews.com