Austin has a new City Council. Seven of its members are women; four of them are men. This—a majority-female governing body—is a nice milestone, but the city manager’s office saw it as something else, too: a potential challenge when it comes to communication and getting things done. That office recently offered a training for city staff who regularly interact with the City Council members: a crash course, it seems, on how best to interact with ladies in a professional—and political—context.
The talk, given by two speakers from Florida (and recorded by Austin-American Statesman reporter Lilly Rockwell) was dripping with condescension and bursting with benevolent sexism: It included helpful insights into women’s relationship with numbers (they don’t like them!) and questions (they love asking them!) and briefing documents (they won’t read them!).* At one point a presenter—his qualifications for giving such a talk being that he had been a city manager in a Florida town with an all-female city commission—confided that he’d received some of his revelations about how women in politics go about their business by way of his 11-year-old daughter. (“In a matter of 15 seconds, I got 10 questions that I had to patiently respond to,” he recalled—an experience that “taught me the importance of being patient” when it comes to communicating with the lady folk.) The other presenter, Miya Burt-Stewart, shared such gems as, “Men have egos, women have wish lists.”
This kind of thing—women, seen and thus portrayed as mere girls in high heels—is, sadly, not unusual. Look through the Internet, which, in its Internet-y way, is full of advice on interacting with both women and children … and it can be hard to tell the difference between the two.
With that in mind, here’s a quiz: Based on these tips collected from the Wall Street Journal, the Statesman, the Business Analyst Times, Jezebel, Wikihow, and other advice-givers, can you tell whether the advice in question is being offered for interacting with women in the workplace, or for interacting with children? And thank you, of course, for being patient with my questions.
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