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Mika Brzezinski launches new women’s conference venture, promises ‘everything you haven’t seen’ (Q&A)

Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and author of the 2011 bestseller “Knowing Your Value,” is launching a new venture this year — a series of day-long events for women in Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Boston and Orlando.

We asked her what sets these sessions apart from other conferences in the burgeoning women’s empowerment movement, from TedWomen to the Forbes Women’s Summit. Her edited comments follow.

You are bringing this tour to Washington in May, right? What should we expect?

Everything that you haven’t even seen at any other women’s conferences! These will be interactive. We’re going to be offering tangible, useful, hands-on advice about knowing your value and communicating it effectively.

We’ll be weaving in stories about women we discover in each city we visit and bringing them to the next city. We’ll develop a movement that women can follow online over the course of the year.

Is this purely about women in the workplace?

I wrote this book four years ago and I’ve been writing a next chapter, “Grow your Value,” a new book that comes out in May. I realized I had uncovered such a dirty secret that was so raw — that we get in our own way, not just in our professional value in terms of money, but in our own health and in our relationships with our husbands, friends and children.

The message of “Knowing Your Value” truly applies to every relationship.

Pay inequities and other biases are not new. Are they truly solvable?

That’s the difference between these events and anything we’ve seen done before. Most never crack the code; women don’t walk out with a payoff.

There are going to be women who walk out with value, having been jump-started then and there. We are going to cities where women don’t see events like this, reaching a whole new audience.

You come from a prominent Washington family, and many women who have been headlining conferences for women — from Arianna Huffington to success stories from the tech world like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer — are already wealthy and well connected. What makes you think you have any credibility with the rest of us?

These conferences are aspirational, there will be women who are impressive there. But I tell my story in the most real way. I’ve made mistakes that cost me greatly. I am going to be sharing those. Our mistakes are as valuable as our successes.

When I did a pilot conference in Hartford, women walked out the door excited. The disconnect had been erased through reachable, accessible stories and useful advice.

Women will leave with roles and tools, and they will see women who have used them who are in the process of transforming. There will be a competition part of this, a transformation onstage, that I will be talking more about later.

There have been rocky moments in your own career. You’ve been fired from one job, you almost quit another. What personal qualities kept you going?

To be very honest, I’m very scrappy and goal oriented. I was brought up to be very scrappy.

What drove me was being fired, knowing what it feels like to be a speck out there; feeling like, oh my god, I have no control over my financial future and my childrens’future; thinking what is my value when my stock is down. How do I talk about it? What do I say about being fired? I was riddled with a sense of vulnerability and indecision.

I remember when I was broke, unemployed and my truck broke down, and I was banging my head against the steering wheel. I thought then that I was never going to forget how this feels.

I’ve had the chance to get to know your mother a bit and I’ve been on your show. You seem like very different people who’ve made very different choices. She is an artist (who sculpts tree trunks with a chainsaw), and she stayed at home to juggle career and children. What influence has your mother had over you?

Oh, where to begin. My mother was way ahead of her time. In a nutshell, she was an artist, a wife and a mother. But she never let go of the fact she was an artist — that third aspect of her life — and she learned how to navigate being a White House wife, raising three very difficult children and going out in the woods and hacking at a four-ton tree.

Coveting, holding onto, cherishing and defending the artist in her was the greatest gift she could have passed on to me: to find something in my life I love, never to feel guilty to have that third aspect.

“Morning Joe” had been taking a few hits in recent ratings. Are there any lessons from “Knowing your Value” that apply there, too?

The lesson from “Knowing your Value” is keep you eye on the ball. We have our eye on the ball. Influencers are watching us; our competition has a different kind of audience.

What we have to do is not change. We know our show is good; more people have watched us five years in a row.

This is “Morning Joe” where it began and “Morning Joe” where I plan for it to be five years from now. I love what I do.