Introducing our Fabulous Woman Series
This Business Protocol column will also regularly profile top tier, truly exemplary women business leaders who share their personal stores and advice. They reveal what motivates them and disclose how challenge, struggle and adversity underscore achievement and make them the women they are. I know these fabulous women will inspire and motivate you as much as they have me. Please enjoy.
Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and founder of the "Know Your Value" movement for women, is the mother of two teen girls, Emili, 19, and Carlie, 17. She is self-described as "a woman who has had a lot of privilege. I came from a prestigious family, and despite the difficulty I gave my parents, somehow they got me educated, cultured and socialized ... and it was still hard for me ... there were still bumps along the way."
I feel like this is the message for the moment for women."
Ms. Brzezinski was fired from her job as an anchor at CBS without warning, but she was soon back on top with MSNBC. And after four unsuccessful attempts at salary negotiations, she finally got it right and declares,
"This is a universal problem ... women need to understand their value in the workplace and communicate it effectively, in order to get value back."
The daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security director under former President Jimmy Carter and brother of Mark Brzezinski, Ambassador to Sweden, was in Boston as part of her speaking series on empowering women in the workplace. I sat down with Ms. Brzezinski just before Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh declared it "know your Value Day."
Attitude: "Have a great attitude, a solid sense of your value, know what you bring to the table... then, communicate this effectively. Learn to develop a thick skin and let things roll off, but know when to zero in and call people out ... having a confident attitude and a commanding presence breeds respect."
Appearance: "You need to relate to your audience and appearance is a major facet of your message. Some women have grown their style, look and brand and it works. So for those women, this does not apply. For the rest of us, appearance is cause for concern and "what to wear" and how to wear it is just constant turmoil. ... I want to take the veil off of how you think you're supposed to look and get down to basics."
"I myself, have had a couple style evolutions ... there was a whole phase where I tried too hard to match the beauty queens in my business with the tight, bright dresses, cinched waits and extra eye-lashes, and if I worked really hard, ... if I killed myself, I could do it, but that isn't me." Ms. Brzezinski has a clean, classic style and doesn't like to spend a lot of time or money on clothes but says, "you can't spend nothing, you have to invest in today's clothes." Ms. Brzezinski is launching a new clothing line with Milly.com whose collection takes classic silhouettes and epitomizes bold, advanced contemporary fashion with a feminine edge and a sense of individuality to include her standout signature scarves.
The morning co-host is authentic, candid, blunt. Her fresh, no-nonsense persona is reflected in her timeless look and iconic style.
She wears no Jewelry explaining, "jewelry and hair change over time... fad jewelry and fussy hair styles are distracting and actually detract from your professional aura." She doesn't have the time or inclination to bother with jewelry and says "I kind of like the way it looks and I like the way I feel without a lot of adornments .... I think women should use the tools of her voice, eyes, face and posture to communicate their statement."
French Nails? The beautifully dressed, impeccably coiffed, poised and perfectly postured co-host emphatically states, "my hands have never seen a manicure! I don't have time ... sometimes I cut them .. one is crooked ... I think I cut one off with a machete once..."
Hosiery? "Oh my God No!" It's a non-topic.
Being a woman in a man's world. "I don't think it's a man's world any more... but I'll go with that because I work with a lot of men."
I treat people the way they treat me. If a door is opened or a chair pulled out that's fine, but I'm 48 years old and I have been around and I am sort of in that middle area and completely ambidextrous..."
The Morning Joe co-host starts her days at 3:30 A.M. daily, writes best selling motivational books, goes on fast-paced, full-scheduled national motivational tours, has a husband and two daughters, and a team of people virtually perched over her every move. So ...
What motivates you?
I have been given an incredible platform to reach women and access my message, and finally do something to say, "thank you." I see these women just completely explode, their eyes and mouths wide open and they're like, "Yes, I can do this!" and it is just so exhilarating."
I had always liked being in the television business and never knew how much I loved it until I lost my job and wasn't working for a year. So when Morning Joe came along, it was a real surprise and a blessing. This was the first real branded platform I had, being the most watched political show and all the frenzy of politics, and it is fun."
Her Mentor?: "... and that's something my grandmother taught me." Her grandmother, who spoke 11 languages and has a remarkable story of her own, "possessed dignity and respect ... My grandmother thought I was remarkable, but thought I had terrible posture... Those things I am teaching women on stage are things my grandmother taught me in her living room when I was 7 years old ... and good posture is the beginning of everything."
How do you handle Adversity? "With humor. I face adversity every day because I am trying to do so many different things at once. Sometimes, you just have to hunker down and keep going and not even take the time to let it get to you, and know, that whatever happened, happened and the storm always passes."
"I am still working on that and it's very hard. In the end, no one feels like they have gotten enough... I haven't mastered that, it's not easy."
Support networks. I try to help a lot of people. I offer to help others in my neighborhood and at work, and over the years you develop a large bounty of fortune. It builds and always come back. And at the opposite end , if you were a jerk to someone, that comes back too."
Being married helped or hindered?
"I tell women, especially younger women not to forget to get married and have a family because what's the point of it all if you have no one to share it with? I don't look at it as helping or hurting my career. I don't really care. I want everyone in my family to be happy. And if they're happy, everything else is free, ... and if they're not happy, I'm barley making it through the day."
Advice to daughters: "I try to lead by example and hope my daughters learn from my mistakes."
Advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs:
• stop apologizing
• don't just think about what you want, say it!
• always look for opportunities
• put yourself outside your comfort zone
• learn how to command a room ... practice speaking and presenting at church, family celebrations, ... propose the toast!
• Try to see yourself as other see you
Judith Bowman, speaker and business protocol coach, is president and founder of Judith Bowman Enterprises and author of, "Don't Take the Last Donut" and "How to Stand Apart @ Work."," a speaker and business protocol coach. Email: She may be reached at Judith@protocolconsultants.com.