Although we’re well into the 21st century, many workplaces are still grappling with how to adjust to the increasing presence and power of women in the workplace. Some of those workplaces are failing epically.
A study done by National Journal showed that female congressional staffers were being shut out of one-on-one meetings with their bosses:
Several female aides reported that they have been barred from staffing their male bosses at evening events, driving alone with their congressman or senator, or even sitting down one-on-one in his office for fear that others would get the wrong impression.
The response to some men’s inability to keep their hands to themselves shouldn’t be to punish women. Building close relationships with powerful people, including the kind of bond that often comes from individual face time, is critical to career success. Women have already had to break through old boys’ clubs where deals are made in back rooms to make sure they are part of the process. It’s unfair to hold women back from those opportunities for the sake of appearances. There are other, much more effective ways to show that sexual harassment is not tolerated–like holding harassers accountable, for instance.
If Congress is bad, the Austin City Council is even worse. The council is majority women for the first time in its history. Of course this offers the opportunity for a bizarre training to introduce city employees to this alien creature known as the female human being.
But city manager Marc Ott—or someone in his office—apparently thought the change needed to be met with a training workshop for city employees on how to deal with this confounding creature, the female human being.
The first speaker was Jonathan K. Allen, whose claim to fame is being the city manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, which has an all-female city council. Austin-American Statesman writer Lilly Rockwell collected some of the highlights of Allen’s talk—which appeared to be given to a majority-female audience—in which he explained that women lack interest in “the financial argument” and would rather ask questions than read handout material. Allen shows heroic forbearance in putting up with all these chattering females, because “my daughter taught me the importance of being patient.”
“They don’t process things at [sic] the same way,” Allen said, to women, referring to women. (The same way as what? Woman, you ask too many questions!)
It should surprise no one that Allen was fired as city manager when he returned to Florida, and I hope Ott will be taken to task as well. It’s almost unthinkable that someone would decide that employees, including women , should have to sit down and be condescended to with a barrage of stereotypes that will be of no real value to them in the workplace.
A big step that would help in both these cases shouldn’t be a difficult one: treat women like human beings.