The training seminar, called "The Changing Dynamics in Governance: Women Leading in Local Government," sounded innocuous enough, but things got dicey when a guest addressing the group started implying that women in power don't prepare for meetings and ask a lot more questions than men, CBS News' Elaine Quijano reports.
"I have to question the culture that allowed such a training session to be considered," Austin City Councilwoman Leslie Pool said.
Former Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, city manager Jonathan K. Allen was invited to speak because he was a city manager where he dealt with an all-female city commission. Austin's city council has a female majority for the first time.
"They don't process things at the same way," Allen said.
He said women often don't bother to read the research they're given.
"When they say, 'Mr. City Manager, can you tell me how much that capital improvement project cost?' my sarcastic response will be, 'Madame commissioner, if you look at paragraph four, you would be able to find that information,'" Allen said.
Allen made a comparison to how he patiently answers his 11-year-old daughter's repeated questions.
"And then I said, 'Ah ha! That's how I have to deal with the commission,'" he said.
Many were shocked by the former city manager's words.
"We ask too many questions. We don't understand numbers. It was just ridiculous," said Austin City Councilwoman Delia Garza, who was elected in 2014. "I would be just as offended if it was 'How to work with Hispanics.'"
"I was stunned. I was speechless and stunned," Austin City Councilwoman Ann Kitchen said.
Allen and his co-presenter at the seminar issued a statement.
"If our overall intent and message was not clear during the presentation, we sincerely apologize for any miscommunication," it said.
The city manager whose office organized the seminar insists their intentions were good.
Still, Austin City Manager Marc Ott said "it was the wrong thing to do."
"Wrong, inappropriate message and it failed to meet up with our values. This is just -- we messed up," he said.
"This wasn't the best training seminar, but what it's creating now is a discourse about gender issues so ultimately I think there's going to be a positive outcome from it," University of Texas assistant professor Emily Amanatullah said.
The city manager echoed those sentiments. He told CBS News the failed seminar can serve as a foundation for some really constructive conversations about sensitivity and diversity.