Women, Stop Apologizing!

By Jane M. Von Bergen The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sorry if you really wanted to read another article, but this caught your eye and now you're stuck.

Maybe you'd rather read something by a man or something more manly, like a sports story -- in which case, more apologies.

It might not even be that important. But I did get help from interesting people, especially Mika Brzezinski, the Morning Joe cohost -- who would completely blow her top if she saw the first sentences in this article.

"Stop apologizing. Don't apologize," said Brzezinski, who anchors MSNBC's morning news and commentary show. "I don't know why [women] say, 'I'm sorry.' That is emblazoned into our vocabulary."

Brzezinski will be in town Monday to speak at City Year Philadelphia's inaugural fund-raising Women's Leadership Luncheon, at, of all places, the Union League, the former male bastion.

City Year places 200 people, aged 17 to 24, in the city's public schools as mentors and tutors. They earn a small stipend and a college scholarship.

If there's any lesson Brzezinski wants women to absorb -- whether they are leaders or not -- it's that they should know their own value and not apologize for pushing for what they know they can do and what they know they deserve.

"When you are negotiating, stop apologizing," she said. "Don't be afraid to look at someone and listen. No chatterbox. Bring value to everything you say or don't say anything."

Brzezinski really despises the unfortunate linguistic habit adopted particularly by young women, who end every sentence as if it were a little question?

"The up-talk. The high-pitched voice. You are handing cash across the table every time you do that," she said.

Brzezinski had to learn her lesson the hard way.

In 2007, having earlier been cast aside after high-profile assignments on 60 Minutes and after reporting live from Lower Manhattan during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she managed to snag a job working the overnight news shift.

Through that, she landed an audition for the Morning Joe cohost slot after Don Imus' program, Imus in the Morning, was canceled.

When she and cohost Joe Scarborough began working together, she overheard enough conversations to know he was earning 14 times more than she was.

"My deal was horrendous," she said.

True, she was barely employed when she got the job, and Scarborough brought some impressive credentials to the table, but he also had bargaining chutzpah. For example, he negotiated himself a bonus if Morning Joe surpassed Imus' ratings.

Not Brzezinski.

The show topped Imus' ratings. Scarborough got a bonus. Brzezinski did not.

"He got himself a great deal, and I was like a little mouse who was apologizing and equivocating every step of the way," she said. She managed to narrow the gap. "Our salaries are different, but they are what they should be."

That experience led to her second book, Knowing Your Value, which became a best-seller.

"I like to tell my story, because the mistakes I've made are every woman's story," she said.

Women: Know, Show Your Value

Mika Brzezinski says attitude, appearance, and an accurate assessment of value are keys to success: "Posture is everything. It says, 'I'm here. I'm ready."

In clothes, "the simpler the better. Your voice, your face, your eyes, and how alert you are are your tools. Your clothes and hair should not get in the way."

Practice. "Stand up at church and read a prayer. Stand up at a table and make a toast. Take a chance."

"Part of knowing your own value is knowing when your stock is half its value -- that's just as important as knowing when it's up."

"You need to be respected first. We are born and bred to make everyone feel better. It does not work as a business matter."

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