This Is How Not to Do Diversity Training
Austin, Texas recently elected the first majority-female city council in the city’s history, with seven women and four men. City manager Marc Ott thought that meant it was time for some diversity training—which is when things started to resemble a scene out of The Office.In March, Ott held a two-hour training session to give city employees tips on working with women. Some of the “tips” that were shared: women don’t process things in the same way as men; women will ask a lot of questions instead of reading the materials prepared for them; women don’t like numbers and are uninterested in the “financial argument.” Speaker Jonathan K. Allen, who was invited to address the training because he led an all-female city council in Florida, explained how his 11-year-old daughter helped him practice the patience needed to respond to women’s endless questions: “In a matter of 15 seconds, I got 10 questions that I had to patiently respond to.” The kicker? Apparently all of this was said to an audience of mostly women!Once the story got out, the backlash was swift, with commentators and Twitter users pointing out that, hey—that training was absurdly sexist! The Atlantic even put together a quiz that mixes up the training’s advice on communicating with women with advice for interacting with children; the goal is to guess which is which, and it’s hard (we only got 11 out of 20 right on our first try). Meanwhile, Allen was fired, and Ott has been suspended. Note to managers: when you’re working women, your best bet is probably to treat them as, you know, individual people.