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.”