Women aren’t interested in math, ask a lot of questions and process ideas differently from men.
That’s what members of the Austin city council staff heard during a recent training session on how to work with female leaders, which the city manager organized in March after Austin elected a majority female city council (seven women out of 10 members) for the first time in the city’s history.
The training, billed as a diversity meeting entitled “The Changing Dynamics of Governance: Women Leading in Government,” sparked widespread outrage in the city’s government and beyond after it was recently reported in the Austin-American Statesman, shocking the female members of the city council, who had not been invited to attend a meeting that was designed for staff. The training was so offensive that the city removed the video of it from its website, saying in a press release: “the training was not consistent with the City’s culture, philosophy, and management approach.”
Fox’s local station in Tampa Bay has a link a snippet of the video, depicting one speaker, Jonathan K. Allen, the city manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., who has since been fired, saying: “If you use or attempt to use the same communication or management techniques that you used or attempted to use in a predominantly male-dominated environment, you will be making a serious error in your professional development because they don’t process things the same way.”
Allen also said women ask a lot of questions, citing conversations with his 11-year-old daughter, according to the Austin-American Statesman, which broke the story on Tuesday night. “My daughter taught me the importance of being patient,” he said, and added that women weren’t much interested in financials, paraphrasing female leaders he worked with: “Mr. Manager, I don’t want to hear about the financial argument, I want to hear about how this impacts the whole community.”
“I heard about it last night and was speechless,” Leslie Pool, an Austin city councilwoman, told Fox, adding: “Oh math is hard, right. Well I took Qualitative Analysis in my master’s degree class at the LBJ School a decade or more ago, and I actually did pretty darn well.”
Several female council members addressed the controversy in a press conference held Wednesday.
In a joint response to the controversy over the training session, speakers Jonathan K. Allen and Dr. Miya Burt-Stewart issued a statement published by the Austin-American Statesman: “Any interpretation that we do not support and appreciate the growing number of women executives and elected officials in both the public and private sector is absolutely not true.”
Austin City Manager Marc Ott indicated that the training had been a mistake. “I take responsibility for this,” he told Fox. “The buck stops at the city manager so I take responsibility, it should not have happened, it should have been vetted.”