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MIKA BRZEZINSKI & DANIELA PIERRE-BRAVO: Mentoring Millennials and Waging a War on the Wage Gap

MIKA BRZEZINSKI & DANIELA PIERRE-BRAVO: Mentoring Millennials and Waging a War on the Wage Gap

By Don Winter

Photographer: Miller Hawkins

Hair & Makeup: Wilbert Ramos

Cover On Daniela MiaDonna Tennis bracelet, 14KW, 5.0ctw | On Mika MiaDonna Martini Stud Earring 14KW, 1.06ctw

 

She might be best known for her MSNBC show Morning Joe, but Mika Brzezinski and Know Your Value millennial contributor Daniela Pierre-Bravo are offering cups of confidence for women starting out in the workforce with their upcoming book, Earn It! Know Your Value and Grow Your Career, In Your 20s and Beyond. Since Mika’s first book, Knowing Your Value was first released in 2011, she has found a fan base of women who are looking for tips and techniques when it comes to receiving the recognition they deserve and realizing their financial worth.

With the new book, as well as lectures across the country, Mika and Daniela are ready to reenergize women entering or reentering the workplace. Much of the book also focuses on Daniela’s own personal stories and struggles with finding her way in the world of the workforce.  Daniela, a Morning Joe producer and DREAMer, did indeed realize her dreams of moving from a small town to a big city and doing whatever it took to remain afloat, and now she is hoping to spread her message to others who are also in need of guidance when it comes to networking and negotiating.

Together, Mika and Daniela are trying to change the narrative when it comes to what women want and need to succeed, as well as educating men on how to retain female talent. From harnessing your ambition to understanding how to advance every step of the way, their message is meant for millennials as well as more mature women – girl power never looked so empowered. 

 

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What do you love most about New York City? 

Mika: I love how you can be anybody. You just blend in, and everyone’s just like ‘yup’ — and they keep moving on. I spend a lot of time in many Manhattan neighborhoods and it’s not uncommon to run into celebrities or famous intellectuals.  But it feels like this unspoken word. It’s just a place where everybody can be anybody.  

It’s also feels very unified. I covered 9/11 terrorist attacks and was one of the first reporters down there for CBS. Overnight, and then over the course of being literally down at Ground Zero for six weeks straight, I found a unity with New York that was indescribable and deeply emotional. I spent a lot of nights running through alleys, tripping over debris and working alongside firefighters, garbage men, homeless people, whoever. We all were there to report on the story or to help and console people. To be a New Yorker during 9/11 was like being part of this huge, intertwined, extremely tight family.  

 

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What are you favorite go-to restaurants? 

Mika: I don’t go out much, but we order in Shun Lee and The Leopard at de Artistes, and we literally don’t deter from those at all. And then we’re known to have dinner at The Polo Bar with friends.

 

Which historical figure do you admire the most? 

Mika: Pope John Paul II and my dad. 

 

Who do you think has been the most significant president of the United States?

Mika: Trump, but for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

How would you describe your show which has become wildly successful? 

Mika: We are a fun family that came together from all different points of view, walks of life and personalities. We started out as sort of an island of civility in a sea of shrill voices, and now we’ve become a team of minds, intellectuals and analysts. Our family has found ourselves in the midst of a fight for the truth.

 

How do you think your show has shifted since you first started? Do you think the show has taken on more of a mission and responsibility? 

Mika: We struggle with striking the right balance. My co-hosts Joe Scarborough, Willie Geist and I have definitely transformed, but I would actually say that the situation has changed. It used to be that we were trying to create a place where there could be a civil discourse, and that was the challenge.  It was to challenge Democrats and Republicans, you know, can Democrats and Republicans still get along? And where can we do that and still have a civil discourse? There’s a lot of fighting on cable, but we try to be better, and that’s a very worthy but also a very attainable goal.  If you’re a decent person and you believe in a civil discourse you can be on Morning Joe. If you come in with talking points, you’re never going to survive. If you come in with BS, you’re not going to survive. If you come in and you’re not civil, you’re not going to survive, and that was our show.

Now there are Republicans and Democrats, and then there’s this other thing: Trump World. And I don’t know what side that’s on. It’s not right or left to me, it’s not conservative, that’s for sure. And if you talk to a solid, conservative Republican, they don’t like Trump.  It’s not adherent to conservative principles. It’s not adherent to democratic principles. It’s not adherent to the truth, and that is where we find ourselves today. Whatever you want to call us, or however you want to categorize what it is we’re doing, we’re doing our best under circumstances that are not the norm. 

 

What are your feelings on women’s empowerment and how did helping women become such a passion project for you? 

Mika: The concept of Know Your Value, a nationwide movement I launched, came out of my own experience negotiating my salary and I’ve always been really good at training women to execute and communicate effectively on television. I enjoy doing communications training with women. I love watching people grow, but I realized that in my own negotiations, I had let myself down every step of the way.

From the time I was 40, I was practically negotiating against myself. When I wrote the first version of Knowing Your Value and it came out, I realized I had touched a universal nerve.  It became an instant bestseller and people were literally mobbing me saying ‘I read your book, I got a raise.’ 

We updated that book this past fall with new techniques, interviews and lessons I’ve learned along the way. It’s continuously a successful experience for women who read it and are looking for a better understanding of how to know their value and communicate it effectively.

In the midst of those two books, the first release and then the re-release Know Your Value, I started doing events around the country where we actually talk about these messages on stage, hear from other women and really roll up our sleeves and explain to people the techniques of  knowing their value. 

Along the way, I heard back from a lot of women. Young women especially had questions, and women at a more mature age, over 50, also had concerns. The bottom line is that the message is universal.

 

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When did you realize Daniela was the perfect person to help reach a younger generation through your original message? 

Mika: Daniela is a booking producer on Morning Joe who actually started at the very bottom, getting my coffee in the very morning hours. When a staffer got sick, she was quickly put on a plane ride to an event I had to host. We were going from a live taping of Morning Joe to a woman’s event, and she had to sit next to me on the plane.

She took her moment to really ask a lot of questions about the Know Your Value message for young women. She told me her story, and then she also pitched and said that women like her, Latinas, who came from middle America, might not find it so easy to get valuable working experiences and internships in big cities. She said it’s harder to get access, and that she wanted to help them. She told me her story of how she got to New York and how she was sending out resumes while working side jobs, trying to pay for college, and how she got a call back for an unpaid internship after lying on her resume that she was right around the corner from them in New York City. Really, she was in Ohio.

Her potential employer said can we interview you some time ridiculously soon and she said ‘sure, I’ll be there’, and she got on four buses, drove through the night, ended up at Port Authority bus station, washed her hair at the Port Authority bathroom, went to the interview, nailed it and got the job. But the stipend was so low, so she then became a dog walker, a babysitter, and two other jobs just to be able to live in New York. 

Daniela showed  me what she had to do to earn it, and she showed so much unbelievable tenacity. But also when she was talking to me in the moment, she was elegant, she was not braggadocios, in fact I had to pull it out of her practically. She is a DREAMer, she spent much of her formative years wondering if she was even going to be okay to work here. I thought ‘my gosh, not only is this an incredible story, but you’re an incredible person, and I’ve got to start launching people in the Know Your Value motion who live it’, so she became my co-author for this book. Her story is in it, and she has become kind of our liaison to younger women.

 

Where do you feel we are right now in terms of the status of women? 

Mika: I think we’re making strides. I think there’s a lot of strides still to come and some are of our own necessity. Some are the parts of the equation we can control and that’s what Know Your Value is about.

Yes, there is data that’s against us. There is data that shows that we have an ambition gap, that we deter ourselves from risks or from promotions because we don’t know if we can do it all. Many of us are so grateful just to be there because we can actually have a job and kids, so we become self-deprecating, needy and kind of scurrying around just so grateful to have a job. This is all behavioral, this is all us thinking the world hasn’t changed and that male managers don’t understand. 

I was recently  in Detroit speaking to Fiat Chrysler and several men stood up as I was delivering my message. One man stood up and said “Please use these techniques. All I need to know is what you need.” Another person said, “If you can tell me with your mouth and words what it is you need in order to make it so that you can do the job, I’ll make that happen.”

I actually went up to him. I walked across a football field size room and gave him a big hug and the room erupted in applause because it’s true. A lot of people who run companies are good people and they want to retain female talent. They just need to know how and we can help them. 

 

Any structural barriers that need to be addressed or it’s more of a behavioral issue? 

Mika: I work on the part that we can control, the behavioral. Even going and talking to companies and having that open conversation changed everything in that room. It was about 500 women and everybody went back to their work stations that day feeling like ‘Oh my god, I can do this.’ So a lot of it is just having the conversation, but the cultural shift that needs to take place especially in the age of Me Too is real, and there’s a lot of communicating that still needs to happen to get to the next level.

 

How important is charity work to you? Any specific charities you’re most involved with?

Mika: I’m on the board of UNHCR. I think that we need to be mindful of the challenges of immigrants and people of color given this administration, and there are so many ways that we can be supportive and inclusive to people that are being maligned by this administration. On the Know Your Value front, we have partnerships that we’re building. We love Dress for Success and we’re working on making some announcements on the philanthropic front in the next year because we have a big event in New York that we’re working on.

 

What are the biggest challenges that you have faced which have gotten you to where you are? 

Daniela: I’m originally from Santiago, Chile, and moved to the USA permanently when I was 11 or 12 to a small town in Ohio, called Lima. Yes, that town where Glee is based on. I then wound up going to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I came from a place where I struggled financially growing up, and also experienced a lack of access and networks, because coming from a small town in Ohio where your parents themselves are sort of learning the ropes, I didn’t really have a lot of professional mentors to look up to. It’s hard when you’re in college and you’re struggling to figure out how you’re going to make the next payment for school while at the same time figuring out how to get a leg up as you’re entering the workforce. The summer before I graduated I tried to do everything I could to get a foot in the door. I ended up applying anywhere and everywhere in New York City, and sort of used my marketing background as a way in. What I really wanted to do was work in media. I wanted to help shape how culture was told and bring in new voices and faces to the table because I didn’t see that growing up, so that was something that was really important to me. I didn’t know how I was going to get there so I applied to a bunch of places and I ended up hearing back from P. Diddy’s Bad Boy entertainment company, which had a small marketing agency called Blue Flame at the time, and on my resume I said that I lived in New York City. So I think I put an NYU dorm or a Columbia dorm address. We had a screening interview over the phone while I was still in the middle of Ohio and they said ‘we noticed that you’re local, can you come in to the interview in the next few days?’ so without thinking about it I said yes, I’ll be there! Of course I couldn’t get on a plane or drive there because I didn’t have a state ID (I was at the time without DACA), so I wound up scouring the Greyhound bus website. I had never been on a long bus ride before, but ended up getting on a bus a few hours later. For eighteen hours through the night, like 9 stops along the way, I didn’t sleep. I got to smelly Port Authority, cleaned up and just went straight to the interview. I ended up telling them that I had traveled from Ohio and they were really impressed. It was unpaid, but I got the internship at Bad Boy in the marketing agency, and then I had another unpaid internship at MTV networks.I really struggled to just get by in New York City that summer, so I worked everything under the sun. I was a babysitter, I was a pet sitter, I walked dogs during my lunch break, I was a club promoter, and another job at a bar, I was making it work any way that I could. That summer really gave me the experience that I needed to apply for the NBC pPage Program and I also thankfully got DACA, which allowed me to apply for a work permit.

 

 

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How did you build a relationship with Mika and become a millennial contributor and liaison for the Know Your Value platform? 

Daniela: I made my stints around NBCUniversal working at Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as an NBC Page, and then landed at Morning Joe. I had an assignment with the show for about a month and was offered a  full time role, and that’s how Mika and I started working together. And in the book we talk about  how to make yourself stick out in a good way, how to resonate with people who can help your career. I remember doing everything that I could to get Mika’s coffee perfect, even if it meant standing outside Starbucks pleading with the Barista to open early so she could have it the moment she walked in. That was something that was important to her and really made a difference, even if it migh seem like a small detail. I went from printing her scripts, getting her coffee every morning, sorting out her clothes to her being like ‘Hey, do you want to come to this fashion shows with me? Can you come to this other event with me?’ So it really snowballed into us having more of a working relationship together.

Then, two years into this working relationship where I was supporting her as a coordinator for the show and working as a sort of part-time assistant to her unofficially, I told her my back story. We were out on the campaign trail in South Carolina for the 2016 primary season and I was on set at 4AM as I usually was and half way through the morning show Mika said somebody who was supposed to staff her that afternoon for a speaking engagement in Chattanooga, Tennessee fell sick, and asked if I could fill in. We went from South Carolina to Chattanooga on a plane, and that was sort of the perfect alone time with her where I could tell her what I was cooking up and my idea for creating a platform for other young women who needed access or wanted to learn from professional mentors that they didn’t have, Something I wished existed when I was younger. That idea was based on my own struggle. I knew that she had grown this amazing brand called Know Your Value, and I asked for her advice on how I could create a platform to expand that sort of message for young people starting out.That plane ride really changed everything, and a couple of months later she called me on New Years Day and she’s like ‘We’re writing a book Together!”, and that sort of really initiated our relationship as collaborators.

 

How personal has this book project been for you?

Daniela: Mika has built an incredible brand, but Ipitched to her very purposefully because I knew the struggles of other young women, whether they’re well connected and don’t know how to leverage their network, or whether it’s minorities, Latinas, or women of color who come from a background of cultural disadvantage, and there’s a lot of things

that play into that. One of the things I wanted to help young women with is knowing how to find networks, grow their own, and open up access for themselves. Being first generation, my parents worked two and three jobs, and I really had to figure things

out for myself. I didn’t have professional mentors showing me the way. I was learning the language when I was 11 or 12, but also trying to figure out how to blend in and keep up with the cultural nuances, trying to figure out how to get to college despite my status etc. I think that getting yourself in the door has a lot to do with networks and who you know, and that can either impair your ability to gain access or really catapult you into advancing.

For women, we already see so many things that hold us back, whether it’s starting out in the workplace with the wage gap disadvantage, or struggling to get into the door because  of unconscious bias. I want to help young women change that narrative.

In the book we talk about my own story, and it’s important for me to create a sense for these young women, for this next generation, to say it’s not about not seeing people that look like me at the table, but it’s about looking inward and working on having a strong sense of self to identify the tools and the values we have and really sell them to get a seat at the table. It’s about saying,  How can I empower myself to be the first person at the table? It’s about owning your journey and defining your own career narrative and thinking beyond your barriers and challenges.

Whether it’s financially not being able to afford it or not having the access to networks, or being far away from the opportunities that you want. I’m hoping that my story can inspire others to bridge a gap between their ownlimiations , whatever that might be, and access to get them where they want to go, and creating that career that you want for yourself.

 

What do you foresee for the future of Know Your Value?

Daniela: Mika has given me a really great opportunity to be a millennial ambassador, and millennial contributor, for Know Your Value, so I’ve really owned and created all the content that goes into the website for the next generation. So what does knowing your value mean for millennials or for Gen Z? I think that it incorporates a lot of things.For example, we just did a piece on maximizing your finances for millennials, and one of the conversations that we had was what to do that when you’re starting out and barely making any money and trying to invest in yourself. As a Latina, for example, and in the case of many Latinos and other minorities, studies show they’re more than half of the 10 million caregivers in the US, and so they’re taking care of their family and balancing ways to invest and save for themselves and earning very little staring out. So it’s about owning the narrative of all of the facets that are holding women back when it comes to advancing. Part of that is financial independence.Coming into the work force and advocating for yourself from the start is very important; and not being afraid to ask for the money that comes with that. And that is all part of Know Your Value and it’s so important for the next generation to embrace.

And millennials have tons of challenges unique to their generation. For example, we are a generation that has so much student debt and have a higher cost of living than other generations did at our age.

We really want to dig in on solutions to empower the next generation. Something that we talk about in the book is that studies show that women already start out at a lower rate than their male counterparts and rarely catch up, so when it comes to the wage gap conversation as a whole, young women have an important role to play. And there are allthese mixed messages, you’re supposed to be working long hours and be eager and show that you’re willing to do anything, but where’s that middle point where you say ‘well, I can do all those things, but also raise my voice and advocate for myself, and identify the timing for the next step?’ Millennials  also have all these stereotypes – that they’re entitled or that they’re selfish etc. – so it’s kind of working within that ecosystem and dispelling those stereotypes and embrace ways to be ambitious and still really good at your job – Finding ways advocate for yourself, advance in your career, and getting the appropriate compensation that goes with it. What we want do is really expand this multifaceted conversation to really empower women in the next generation in many different ways to ultimately get them the money they deserve when it comes time to negotiating and advocating for themselves.

 

Who is the book meant for? 

Daniela: It’s for women starting out in the work force, but there are istons of advice that women of all ages can gain from. We talk about my story of overcoming and my struggle to get in the door, in hopes other young women might find inspiration to own their career narrative and get closer to their own goals. There were so many different factors which should have held me back from getting my foot in the door or getting on that bus for 18 hours because there wasn’t that clear linear path for me, so I think despite the fact that you might not be a DACA recipient or undocumented, many women and men struggle with the same things, so it’s really putting the onus into young people to own their career trajectory. We talk about strategies to grow your network if you don’t have one. We have strategies and tips to gain access to networks and what to do to leverage them. We go through how to interview successfully, and talk about how to advance and gain leverage when you’re in the job. What I’ve noticed, especially in this industry, is that there are so many nuances when it comes to communication and when it comes to being able to advocate for yourself in a meeting or in the negotiating room. We want to give young people a leg up, especially when it comes to communicating

effectively. In the book we also talk about what to do when you feel stuck. I think a lot of millennials go through this in their late 20s. What to do when you’re in a toxic environment in the workplace, and what do you do if you’re stuck or if you want to start over and you’re not happy in the career that you have currently. And then we talk to tons of young people who have done the corporate thing or who have worked for agencies or for other people and who now work for themselves. The book is a really great guide book for women who are starting out,but also still makes sense after a few years in the workplace. It encompasses all the life stages that women go through, not only right before they’re starting out, but as they’re developing in the workplace.

 

 

How does ambition play a role for women looking to advocate for themselves? 

Millennial women are very ambitious. I think that there are so many negative connotations with ambition, but women really need to own their ambition, because that’s what’s going to get us to where we need to go, and it’s going to get us from a place of working long hours and being scrappy to the next step. We just need to be able to translate that ambition in a way that gives us leverage to advance. What gets in the way is the mental clutter that young women tend to have, because we’re so hard on ourselves, and we make up stories about what people are saying about us that in some cases are not true. We feel like we need to be liked in the workplace and we stress over it and it takes up so much space in our heads and it distracts us from thinking clearly. It gets in the way of our advocating power because we begin to self-doubt ourselves. We need to stop taking everything personally at work. I think one of the reasons why I think it’s so important to share this message with minorities and especially Latinas is because we did a study with Harvard University for this book on a lot of different topics, and one of those things is ambition. When it came to how women viewed ambition, millennials are embracing that word more and more, but what we found was that Latinas still have a harder time than white women embracing that word and seeing that as a positive attribute. I think a lot of it has to do with our cultural upbringing, the way that we’re taught to be, the way we were taught to be patient and that good things will come to you if you wait. I think with the book and all these opportunities to speak to young women and the work that we’re doing with Know Your Value, we’re really stripping down that misconception that ambition is a bad thing. With my role at Know Your Value I’ve gotten to interview incredible women, of all different backgrounds, and it’s important to highlight these women anddiverse voices to show the next generation a roadmap or pathway to how their dream professions can be manifested. And one of the most important things to get there is to be deeply ambitious.

 

Do women need more guidance when it comes to asking for what they want in the workplace? 

Daniela: Mika talks about this, and it’s that men for some reason are just better at this, and I think women have a little bit of catching up to do. Women in their 40s and 50s are the ones that have brought this message to the forefront. I think that women that are just entering the workplace are at such an advantage when it comes to owning their ambition and asking for what they’re worth because they’re coming into the workplace with this message and really feeling empowered to be able to do it. Now the key is to be able to put the onus on yourself, to find the words to get you to the next step, being

able to practice communicating effectively and to keep tabs on the work that you’re doing. One of the places where women get stuck is when they start out working and working, and then a few years go by and they have to find that moment where they need to speak up and advocate for themselves to move forward;, and not feel like being ambitious is a bad thing. Because that is going to hold you back and it creates a ripple effect. You need to be able to get paid what you’re worth at every step of the way, so women need to be more comfortable not asking for more money, but doing it frequently and really keeping tabs of when their value is up, as Mika would say. 

 

What about the book and this brand makes you feel most proud? 

Daniela: I love being able to open up this conversation to young women and the next generation and in specific minorities and marginalized groups, it hits close to home. It’s a struggle that I faced personally, I know women going through the same thing, and women that have felt really inspired by my narrative and have overcome their own barriers. It’s all about empowering other women to dig deep and believe in themselves and find a way to be ambitious and get ahead in the workplace despite their own barriers to success. I’m excited to see where we go from here.

 

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