Austin city officials gathered for a press conference in response to a training that occurred last March on how to work with and interact with women.
The training session was called “The Changing Dynamics in Governance: Women Leading in Local Government,” and attempted to address “techniques” for working with the city’s new feminine-majority city council.
Jonathan Allen, former City Manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, led the training and stated “if you attempt to use the same communication techniques, management techniques, that you use or attempted to use in a predominantly male environment, you will be making a serious error in your professional development. Because they don’t process things in the same way.”
More of his advice included:
Women ask lots of questions. He learned a valuable lesson on communicating with women from his 11-year-old daughter, who peppered him with questions while they were on the way to volleyball. “In a matter of 15 seconds, I got 10 questions that I had to patiently respond to,” Allen said. Allen says female City Council members are less likely to read agenda information and instead ask questions. He says it’s tempting to just tell them to read the packet, but “my daughter taught me the importance of being patient” even when they may already know the answer to the question.
Women don’t want to deal with numbers. Allen said in his city they used to have background information and financial analysis on the front pages of agenda forms. Allen says he normally would have presented the financial argument, but that his female commissioners would balk and say “Mr. Manager, I don’t want to hear about the financial argument, I want to hear about how this impacts the whole community.” He said that it may make good financial sense, but if he wants to get the votes, he has to present his arguments “in a totally different way.”
Women are taking over, Hillary Clinton will only encourage this. Allen talked about the general trend of more women getting involved in government, citing stats of more female mayors, for instance. “You see women in leadership positions…you will have to interact with them in a different way,” Allen said. “I submit to you if Hillary Clinton just runs, just runs for the office, you are going to see even greater numbers in leadership position, if she wins, you will see even greater numbers starting at the bottom on top.” He warns the staff to play nice with people on advisory boards or commissions because you never know when they become the elected official.
Dr. Miya Burt-Stewart was also a speaker at the training. Stewart owns a business development and marketing firm and she employed a “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” philosophy. Stewart said that men act on fact and women act on emotion. She added that men have egos and women have wish lists.
Austin’s Democratic Mayor Steve Adler reported that he just learned of this training last night and posted his reaction on Twitter:
Shocked to learn of this training. These kinds of stereotypes about women are hurtful and wrong. Not Austin values. http://t.co/ydxPWrM7AG
— Mayor Adler (@MayorAdler) May 13, 2015
City Manager Marc Ott released an official statement saying in part:
I have personally invested significant time and attention to the matters of diversity in the City of Austin workplace. The opinions the outside speaker expressed in the training were disappointing and unexpected and do not reflect the views of the City. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that this particular training should have received proper vetting. I must take responsibility for that not having occurred.”
District 5 council member Ann Kitchen said the city deserves an apology.