The news that Austin’s local government arranged a training session on how to deal with powerful women, which included that they ask a lot of questions and don’t want to hear financial arguments, has been met with widespread confusion and outrage.
In March, Austin’s Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes invited two speakers from Florida to help city staff navigate a newly female-majority City Council.
The story gained national attention last week when Lilly Rockwell broke the news in The Austin-American Statesmen.
Since then, Snipes has been suspended from his position and an investigation into the training session is underway.
According to Rockwell’s article, the two-hour training was led by Jonathan K. Allen, then a city manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, who supervised an all-women city commission, and Dr. Miya Burt-Stewart, who owns a business development and marketing firm.
(Lauderdale Lakes has since fired Allen from his position for unrelated reasons.)
Allen taught the city staff a number of useful “lessons” about gender differences. For example, he said a conversation with his 11-year-old daughter taught him that women tend to ask a lot of questions. And instead of reading agenda information, he said women will often ask you to explain it to them, so it’s important to be “patient.”
Moreover, Allen noted that women aren’t especially interested in “the financial argument” behind political issues.
Now that Hillary Clinton is running for office, Allen predicted that more women will get involved in government and “you will have to interact with them in a different way.”
Burt-Stewart added that, while men are more inclined to use a “dominating” management style, women are more “compromising.”
When Rockwell first approached city spokesman David Green about the issue, he said the training session was a “timely and relevant professional development opportunity,” given that the City Council was majority female for the first time in history.
But more recently, Austin City Manager Marc Ott wrote in a memo to the mayor and the City Council: “The remarks made in the referenced training are not reflective in any way of our culture, philosophy, or approach toward managing this organisation.”
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