While the "training" probably wasn't the best idea, it's true that city councils, and all levels of state and local government, don't have much experience with female majorities. And that has a major effect on gender balance (or rather, imbalance) in Congress -- and even our presidential elections.
And as it turns out, when it comes to city governments in the United States' largest cities, Austin stands apart.
No city larger than Austin -- the 11th biggest in the U.S. -- has a higher percentage of women on its city council, according to information from city council Web sites. It's also the only city with at least 50 percent female members.
Here's how those cities compare. Austin leads with 70 percent, followed by San Diego with 44 percent, Phoenix with 37.5 percent, New York with 37 percent and Dallas with 35 percent. Los Angeles's city council is 6 percent female, with one woman on its 15-member council.
As male-dominated as these city councils are, most of them are still more balanced than the U.S. Congress, where only 19 percent of members are women.
For those who'd like to see more women in higher office, it all starts at the local level. If politics were baseball, Congress and governor's offices would be the major leagues (and are the pools from which we almost always pick our presidents and vice presidents), and state and local governments would be the minors, with talented politicians making their way up from city halls and state houses to higher office.
For that reason, don't expect a dramatic rise in the number of women in Congress anytime soon. Nationally, women make up less than one in four state legislators and only 60 of the 335 state legislative leaders across the country are women. The states with the most gender diversity in their state legislatures, Colorado and Vermont, are each 41 percent female. On the other end of the spectrum, there are three state Senates -- in West Virginia, Wyoming and South Carolina -- that have just one female member.
The road to gender balance in Congress goes through places like Austin, Denver and Montpelier. The more women serving in city halls and state Capitols, the more could eventually make their way to Washington.
For now, though, the lessons of Austin suggest that will take a long time.