Austin Convenes Session to Help Staff Understand Women

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The Austin city manager’s office should be getting hate mail from feminist organizations in 3 … 2 … 1 …

Now that the Austin City Council is comprised of seven women and four men, the first time in its history that the majority of members are women, the city manager’s office decided that staff interacting with the council needed some education as to how women think and act, and convened a two-hour training session on March 27 with speakers from Florida delineating how women are different from men.

Jonathan K. Allen, city manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, was invited because his local city commission was all-female. He posited that women ask more questions than men rather than read the necessary material, that women are less comfortable with numbers than men, adding that his female commissioners did not want to see background information and financial analysis but preferred “how this impacts the whole community,” and that with the possibility of Hillary Clinton becoming president, large swaths of women could enter the job force.

The next speaker, Dr. Miya Burt-Stewart, runs a business development and marketing firm, and had her own set of cogent observations: “Men have egos, women have wish lists,” men tend to act in a more “dominant” management style, and men prefer being recognized for their work while women prefer working as a team.

City spokesman David Green said the session was catalyzed by a “historic change in Austin’s municipal governance, including the election of a new, majority-women City Council” and that it was a “timely and relevant professional development opportunity.” He pointed out that the city did not pay for the travel of the speakers, only the hotel bill of $457.70 being for Allen. The National Forum for Black Public Administrators also hosted the event.

Emily Amanatullah, an assistant professor of management at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, commented, “At the outset, it definitely feels archaic, like ‘The women are usually in the kitchen, how do we deal with them now that they have power?’ It does reek of old norms and often it’s called benevolent sexism – they are not putting women down, but they are in a way.” She added, “There is no blanket men are like this, women are like that. In certain contexts, you might see differences, but it’s not necessarily based on biological differences.”

Roughly two weeks after the session, Allen was fired by the Lauderdale Lakes city commissioners, despite the fact that he had brought the city back from bankruptcy.


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