SHRM Las Vegas 3: Mika Brezezinski Makes Her Pinch Hitting Opportunity Count

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Jun 30, 2015

Mika Brzezinski, the keynote speaker on Day 3 of the 2015 Society for Human Resource Management’s annual Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas, is known primarily for three things:

  • She is the co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show.
  • She is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as National Security Advisor for President Carter.
  • She is the author of three best-selling books.

But Brzezinski will also be known in SHRM circles as the woman who jumped in to pinch hit for Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, who was originally scheduled to speak but bowed out after her husband died in a tragic accident early last month.

Women need to ‘know their value”

It’s never easy having to step in like this for someone else, but if you have to do it, make sure you get a polished veteran television personality like Mika Brzezinski who isn’t particularly troubled by having to speak to a crowd of 15,000 HR professionals in Las Vegas early on a Tuesday morning.

Mika Brzezinski
Mika Brzezinski

She seemed up to the challenge and spent most of her time talking about three things:

  1. How she got hired for Morning Joe, including how co-host Joe Scarborough negotiated his salary that, according to Brzezinski, is 14 times more than she makes;
  2. How women shouldn’t underestimate the power they have in the workplace and what they bring to the table; and,
  3. That women need to both “know their value” and “grow their value.”

That last point refers to the subject of two of her best-selling books — Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth and her most recent book, Grow Your Value: Living and Working to Your Full Potential.

Brzezinski really didn’t talk about HR, or tailor her conversation to an audience of human resource professionals, but she did spend a great deal of time on what women need to do for themselves to get treated fairly in the workplace and build their own personal brands that have value.

A successful pinch hitter

“They need to know what you bring to the table, and (you need to) be able to quantify it,” she said, and it’s a theme that she  speaks and writes to a lot, as you’ll find if you read this story on Brzezinski in the current issue of Fast Company. Titled MSNBC Host Mika Brzezinski on Turning Career Setbacks Into Opportunities, it covers a lot of the same ground as her SHRM keynote presentation.

For my money, Mika Brzezinski did a good job subbing for Sheryl Sandberg, although as a TV morning show host, she simply doesn’t bring the same clout to the stage as the COO of Facebook does. But as a pinch hitter who was asked to step up to the plate late in the game, she certainly did what they wanted her to do.

Given that about 70 percent of HR professionals are women, and that percentage might actually be a little higher at a SHRM annual conference, Brzezinski seemed to touch a nerve by giving a message of empowerment that resonated with the largely female audience.

The only thing the audience seemed to miss out on was a little Q&A session with the SHRM crowd. She was game to do it, and certainly would have been interesting and provocative, but SHRM has a schedule to run and that would have gotten in the way of keeping things on time.

That’s too bad, because a little Q&A might have added a little more perspective to what Brzezinski had to say. For my money, the general session crowd here in Las Vegas got a little shortchanged on that.