mPowering You: Looking Ahead—Knowing Your Value and Asking for What You Want

(Mika Brzezinski and MBA COO Marcia Davies at the mPowering You event in San Diego on Oct. 16.)

SAN DIEGO—What is the “new normal” in the workplace?

Speaking here at mPowering You: MBA’s Summit for Women in Real Estate Finance, Mortgage Bankers Association COO and mPower Founder Marcia Davies and Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC Morning Joe Co-Host and New York Times best-selling author, explored challenges and opportunities women face and provided advice on how women can ask for what they need.

During the pandemic, Brzezinski said Morning Joe got consigned to the garage—literally. “We quarantined for months and used our garage as the studio for the show,” she said, noting she and husband/co-host Joe Scarborough combined work and home, including her family and her 89-year-old mother. mPowering You was Brzezinski’s first trips in nearly two years.

“There was a lot of coming together with my family,” Brzezinski said. “We’ve had a lot of time together and became a lot closer.”

At the same time, Brzezinski said the work-from-home environment made things too casual. “I had to remember that Zoom meetings meant ‘work,’ she said. “I had to practice my appearance, my voice, my focus.”

While Brzezinski understands the value of work-from-home, she also sees the value of returning to the office. “Nothing beats the office,” she said. “And your co-workers need you—they need to see you in person; they need to interact with you in person; they need to network with you…it’s been a very tough year, and if you have the chance to be back in the office, I think you should.”

Women have been exiting the workplace in record numbers; Brzezinski said this means women need to be more assertive to keep the ground that has been gained over the years.

“For most of us, what we’ve learned in this pandemic is that you can’t change what you can’t control,” Brzezinski said. “Awkward conversations are things that we fear, but nonetheless we have to do. Don’t be afraid to press the ‘reset’ button.”

Brzezinski called on women to advocate for themselves. “You have to overreach,” she said. “If you don’t ask for things, then work toward it, then you are doing what they want. You have to demonstrate that you want this; that you have to have this; and that you can get this…you can aspire—make it a win for the company, make it sound like you’re doing them a favor.”

Brzezinski said men talk about “potential,” while women talk about what they have done. “Companies are trying to retain strong female content,” she said. “If you can do your job, it’s a no-brainer. In this pandemic environment, companies have learned to be flexible and do things they have never done before. You have to make this environment work for you.”

Brzezinski also said women need to overcome their fear of coming across as too aggressive—or, put in a more vulgar manner, she said, “a bitch.”

“You can exude confidence in a positive way,” Brzezinski said. “When you are competent, passionate, intense, you are not being arrogant—you are doing your job. An effective communicator can negotiate with conviction.”

But Brzezinski warned that fear can change things. “If you’re worried about how they’re thinking…it’s not a good feel,” she said. “Fear makes you feel a certain way—and the problem is that you end up coming across a certain way.”

Brzezinski said women have to work on communication skills. “You make eye contact;” she said. “You don’t have to smile all the time, but you can’t scowl; you have to learn to speak in difficult situations. You have to be in the game.”

“You’re going to live a long time—life has a long runway,” Brzezinski said. “Enjoy it; take your time, let yourself shine.”