Local Lady Leaders

Austin City Council responds to viral 'women leading in local government' training session

Austin City Council responds to women in government training session

exterior of Austin City Hall
City officials held a press release to address a training session held in March. Photo courtesy of Society of Architectural Historians

Austin's city manager and city council members spoke at a press conference on Wednesday to address a city training session that has gone viral.

On March 27, the city held a training session called, "Women Leading in Local Government." According to a press release from the City of Austin, "The intent of the training was to reinforce the City's principles regarding diversity in the workplace, and how staff might apply those principles in light of the changing dynamics of a new City Council."

On Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman published a video of a portion of the training session as well as commentary. Some of the advice from guest speaker Jonathan Allen (the former city manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida), writes the Statesman, included, "Women ask a lot of questions," and "Women don't want to deal with numbers."

National media outlets Slate and Huffington Post have since picked up the story, and commentators are using the hashtag #whatwomenask to circulate the story on Twitter.

"The opinions the outside speaker expressed in the training were disappointing and unexpected and do not reflect the views of the City," City Manager Marc Ott said in a release. "At the same time, I have to acknowledge that this particular training should have received proper vetting. I must take responsibility for that not having occurred.

"Our community, employees and elected officials should know that [speaker] Mr. Allen’s remarks are not reflective in any way of our culture, philosophy, or approach toward managing this organization, nor our approach toward partnering with the City Council. As I have shared with the Mayor and City Council, I fully recognize the effect that his words have on our work, our workforce, and the community." 

Mayor Steve Adler and Ott were joined by the majority of the city council, including all of its female members, at Wednesday's press conference. They addressed the comments in the training session and reiterated that the speaker's remarks do not reflect the views of the local government.

"We should be finding ways to move forward, not setting the clock backwards and reinforcing stereotypes," said council member Delia Garza. Council member Ann Kitchen called the remarks "troubling" and "insulting." Ott added that he was "offended and embarrassed" when he learned of the remarks.

"This kind of stereotyping is not only wrong, it's damaging. It does not reflect the values of the City of Austin," said Adler.