As Mika Brzezinski looks back on five years of her Know Your Value brand and movement, she’s grateful for the growth that has allowed her and her team to give countless women the tools to improve their lives—and she has big plans for future expansion.
“It’s become about so much more than money: It’s about life, it’s about health,” said Brzezinski in an interview. “It’s about advocating for value back in every relationship in your life so you have more meaningful relationships.”
Know Your Value, an extension of Brzezinski’s 2011 book of the same name, began with one event in Hartford, Connecticut, in 2014. It has since grown to become a website that covers careers and lifestyle at large, a partnership with NBC and Comcast that runs multiple events per year and more.
“When I look back over five years, nine cities and a dozen or more events, I’m blown away by how much we’ve grown as a team and a message,” the “Morning Joe” co-host said. “I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Brzezinski shared the top five things she’s learned as she celebrates the fifth anniversary of Know Your Value—and looks ahead to the next five years.
1. She’s been floored by the numbers of women who have lived the message and shared with us, “Oh my gosh. I did it.”
Over the past year in particular, Brzezinski has been surprised by how many women come up to her and start crying: “They tell me about something they went through, and over the years it’s completely morphed from ‘I read your book and advocated for more money’ to ‘I participated in the Know Your Value movement and my life has changed,’” Brzezinski said. “I feel so full when I hear those stories. I love that our team is contributing in a truly authentic way.”
For Jennifer Hotchkiss, who participated in that first Know Your Value event in Hartford, the movement “changed the trajectory of my life.” Hotchkiss had often thought about obtaining her bachelor’s degree, but she was working as an administrative assistant and had a young son. Then she heard about the “Grow Your Value” contest in 2014, in which contestants make their case for why they deserve a $10,000 raise and decided to apply.
Hotchkiss was “amazed” to be selected as a finalist, and after going through the program, she made her pitch about how she would use the bonus to pay for The American Women’s College Online program at local Bay Path College (now University). The school just so happened to have a representative in the audience: Chief Strategy Officer Caron Hobin. Hotchkiss placed second in the Grow Your Value competition, but Bay Path offered her a scholarship on the spot—and she went on to obtain her degree in two years, serving as a commencement speaker at her graduation in 2016.
“The whole experience gave me a boost of confidence,” said Hotchkiss, who now works as an office manager at an architectural firm. “I know my value and I’ve taken that everywhere with me.”
2. It’s not just about getting the raise.
“It’s about doing what’s right for you,” Brzezinski explained. “Whether it’s a promotion or leaving a job or even in some cases getting a divorce, the Know Your Value message has so organically branched out into every facet of a woman’s life.”
3. Mental health matters.
In fact, it might be the “totality” of Know Your Value, said Brzezinski, who plans to focus the movement more heavily on mental health, self-care, mindfulness and related topics in the future.
“The key is to truly embrace this message and to make it a part of your psyche, which can be hard for women,” Brzezinski said. “We tend to take techniques and act them out—'I’m being firm in this meeting where I’m asking for a raise’—but we don’t live them. For a woman to live the message there is a major mental component, and we’ll be talking a lot more about this.”
4. The political turmoil we’re experiencing has created even more of a place for this message.
“I see the Know Your Value message resonating with people on a level I didn’t expect to see," said Brzezinski. Women need a place to go with their frustrations, and this is a great place to do it.”
5. We have so much more to do.
“Across the board with issues like the wage gap and career opportunities, things are bad for women as a whole but especially for minorities,” Brzezinski said. “We intend in the next five years to focus even more on these women, getting out there and reaching them with tools and training they can use.”
Brzezinski also plans to boost efforts to include men in the message even more, empowering them to help effect necessary changes.
“There are many men who have had journeys that are difficult, and they may suffer from the same problems,” Brzezinski said. “Most also see that championing women isn’t just the nice or right thing to do; it’s a smart business move. We’re seeing so much interest in Know Your Value from men in the business community and we want to grow that.”
Brzezinski also wants to make more inroads with LGBTQ communities and other marginalized voices, she said: “Many people are sadly discriminated against in society, and sometimes in their own families, which makes their paths difficult. I really believe there’s a place at Know Your Value for everyone.”
As Brzezinski looks ahead to the coming years of Know Your Value, she’s eager to hear from the KYV community.
“Joe will tell you there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not walking around with my iPad and Your Value clipboard,” Brzezinski said. “We’re digging deep with the website and our social media reach and our events. I urge people to communicate with us via firstname.lastname@example.org: Tell us what worked for you, and what you need. We want to start a conversation that doesn’t end.”