Esplanade closure begins February 1st

A former Portlander wants to know what ‘women led’ cities would look like

Posted by on February 6th, 2018 at 9:53 am

Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman at Portland’s Parking Day event in 2013.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman is putting what she learned in Portland to very good use: addressing the sexism in urban planning and helping women take leadership roles in how our cities are designed.

“The city, as we know it today, has been designed and shaped primarily by men,” she wrote in a recent email, “By bringing women’s voices to the forefront of the urban discussion, the Women Led Cities Initiative aims to achieve a greater level of equity in urban planning and design – both bottom-up and top-down – and start conversations about developing feminist city policy towards greater equality for all people in our cities.”

Johnston-Zimmerman, an urban anthropologist with a Master of Urban Studies degree from Portland State University (and who shared a guest article here on BikePortland in 2013), moved to Philadelphia a few years ago; but not before cutting her teeth on local activism efforts like Better Block and Parking Day. Back in 2012 I worked with Johnston-Zimmerman (and two others) on a project for GOOD Magazine where we envisioned a Portland where bicycling was just as easy as driving or taking transit.

Those projects were just the start for Johnston-Zimmerman. She’s also founder of the THINK.urban consulting firm, part of the tandem (along with fellow urbanist Kirsten Jeffers) that hosts the Third Wave Urbanism podcast, and one of the driving forces behind the Women Led Cities initiative.

They need to raise another $5,000 to make this happen — and eventually bring it to other cities.

All this work is culminating in her latest effort: to bring together women from a variety of urban planning fields for a Women Led Cities gathering. Johnston-Zimmerman has started a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for the inaugural ‘Women Led Philly’ event.

“I think it’s important to flip the script – while it’s true that women riding in skirts and heels are good to have, and showcase good infrastructure, I wonder if we wouldn’t get there faster and have better infrastructure if it were women-led.”

I reached out to Johnston-Zimmerman to ask how Portland inspired her work. “Portland was a huge influence on me when it came to women. I worked with a pioneering female urbanist there for a time, Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard, and had many women colleagues at PSU who I’m still in touch with.” Johnston-Zimmerman recalled that she recently heard from a male professor at PSU who realized (after reading an article she about sexism in the urban planning field) that 95 percent of the required readings in his curriculum were written by men. “He had an epiphany and told me he should have done better,” Johnston-Zimmerman shared, “That was nice of him to say, but I didn’t have any idea at the time either!”

Johnston-Zimmerman’s experience as a bicycle rider in Portland also impacts her work. “I like using cycling as a way to think about the subject because women are often considered a key demographic — either as ‘interested but concerned’ or an ‘indicator species’,” she says. “I think it’s important to flip the script – while it’s true that women riding in skirts and heels are good to have, and showcase good infrastructure, I wonder if we wouldn’t get there faster and have better infrastructure if it were women-led.”

At this point, Johnston-Zimmerman just wants to expand the conversation and bring together women and girls to flesh out what this future, women-led city would look like. She hopes the Women Led gatherings gain steam so she can bring them to other cities. You can help by checking out the crowdfunding campaign and following @WomenLedCities on Twitter.

Hopefully the next time we see Johnston-Zimmerman she’ll be here for a Women Led Portland event.

Good luck Katrina! Keep us posted on your progress.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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  • Rebecca Hamilton February 6, 2018 at 10:31 am

    I love the momentum that Katrina brought to PARK(ing) Day and I miss her energy here in Portland. Wish I were in Philly to catch this event.

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  • Robin S. February 6, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Great program and article. Thanks Jonathan for bringing Katrina and these projects to our attention!

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  • David Hampsten February 6, 2018 at 11:00 am

    I’ve rarely come across any cities where “planners” as a profession have any major influence on how cities are designed, especially cities that are several lifetimes old. At best they help local activists and city staff design local renewal districts, but rarely whole cities (Longview WA, Philly, & Gary Indiana are the only planned US cities I can easily think of.) Portland has a glut of planners, but it is highly disputable whether they have collectively influenced the design of the city very much, as opposed to land developers, steamboat captains, army and railroad surveyors, etc from the 1800s.

    Are we talking about cities with women city managers here? Or cities where a majority of city councilors are women? Or cities where women have a majority of leading positions in city government, such as directors, engineers, and budget analysts? Or are we discussing cities designed and run on feminist principles? Or something else entirely?

    I am in fact curious, having read Henri Lefebvre on feminist urban geography & planning (a foreign white guy.)

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    • 9watts February 6, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Maybe they can be relied on to ask better (or at a minimum, different) questions. I think we should strive to find out!

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      • Middle of the Road Guy February 6, 2018 at 11:32 am

        what if it turns out the same?

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        • 9watts February 6, 2018 at 11:32 am

          Seems unlikely, but for fairness sake we should do it anyway.

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        • David Hampsten February 6, 2018 at 11:54 am

          I live in Greensboro NC, a manufacturing and university city of about 300,000. Our current city manager is white and male, but his immediate predecessor was a black woman who was so successful that she left to take a senior USDOT job under Obama. We just have elected 8 women (5 white & 3 black) and one black male to our 9-person city council, two of whom were not incumbents; for the first time in our 200+ year city history there are no white males on the city council. I’m sure it had nothing to do with their being women and more to with most of them being realtors and developers, but one of the first things they did after being elected was support 7-2 one of the slimiest real estate deals in our city’s long history of sliminess, spending $60 million in taxpayer money for two new parking decks without first determining if more downtown parking was even needed. (Like most southern cities, our downtown is an underused wasteland.) The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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          • Clicky Freewheel February 6, 2018 at 12:15 pm

            Hence why it’s never a good idea to elect/hire based solely on whatever identity the person claims ownership to. Actual qualifications and experience seems to be less and less important nowadays, but if we want a functioning system, we need to start looking harder at them, otherwise we end up with more Chloe Eudaly’s and less Vera Katz’s.

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        • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 12:47 am

          What if it turns out worse?

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    • q February 6, 2018 at 12:45 pm

      Three cities that come to mind right away where city planners have had huge impacts:
      –Daniel Burnham with the layout of Chicago
      –L’Enfant laying out Washington DC
      –The Olmsteads laying out parks and boulevards in Seattle and Portland, and Central Park in NYC

      You could also say Robert Moses had a major (negative) impact on several cities, by damaging them with freeways.

      Burnham was an architect, and the Olmsteads were landscape architects, but they all had a focus on city planning, so it’s legitimate to call them “planners”. As to the planning profession as a whole, I think you’re right that overall they’re just one group of many who shape cities.

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      • J_R February 6, 2018 at 12:56 pm

        Do you have any examples from, say, less than 100 years ago?

        I don’t think planners have any where near as much influence on urban form and urban development as they used to. Economics, finance, and tax policy have much more impact on urban form than the planners of today.

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        • David Hampsten February 6, 2018 at 1:51 pm

          To q’s list I’d add Savanna & Salt Lake City. The 1920s and 30s were the glory days of small-city planning, especially for garden cities that were connected by rail transit to larger urban centers. Most of the planned cities of post-1945 are usually quite horrifying – suburban freeway sprawl and urban “projects” in North America, Soviet-style apartment blocks in Eastern Europe, similar complexes in Britain and France that became slums, and the uncontrolled barrios and flavas of the 3rd world. Most of the “good” planning in the US, such as by Peter Calthorpe, were focused upon hugely expensive regional transit projects, including in Portland.

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          • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 12:52 am

            By “projects” are you referring to housing for low income people, and those on welfare? And aren’t those high density “projects” pretty much what many here on BP espouse?

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            • David Hampsten February 7, 2018 at 9:12 am

              I personally distinguish between the low-income “projects” of the 50s through 70s of rat-infested concrete monoliths that most US cities have since torn down or dynamited (such as in the Bronx or in St. Louis), and the more recent “affordable by design” structures that housing agencies are now building that look a lot like commercial market-rate housing. Portland never had much of the former and has more of the latter. Mind you, most people on welfare now use rental vouchers and live in market-rate housing, some of which should also be torn down, the “affordable-by-accident” housing.

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        • q February 6, 2018 at 2:45 pm

          I don’t know any names of more recent ones with impacts nearly as big as the ones I mentioned, and yes, I agree planners–especially individuals–have less influence now than in the past, and as I said, they’re just one group of many that shape cities.

          I still think they have significant influence, although it’s not obvious and not a dominating influence. Planners like Michael Harrison and others in Portland who wrote the early Central City Plan only a few decades ago are one example. Planners in cities that have had huge growth and transformation recently, such as Bellevue, WA are another. I’d say even planners behind individual projects (Dirk Lakeman in Portland with Pioneer Square) can have significant impacts even with individual projects, but obviously not on the scale of something like the Chicago Plan.

          And back in the past, what may seem like small decisions can have enormous, lasting impacts. The person who came up with Portland’s tiny 200×200 blocks is an example.

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        • GlowBoy February 8, 2018 at 9:33 am

          Here are some examples from less than 100 years ago. Conscious urban planning played a major role in how the Pearl District and South Waterfront have developed over the last few years, not to mention pushing for zoning changes that have allowed apartments to actually be built on commercial corridors, after 50 years of apartment construction having been essentially prohibited. These changes have transformed many Portland neighborhoods. Urban planners have also been responsible for the development of Portland’s MAX lines, and Streetcar, Aerial gondola and Eastbank Esplanade, not to mention the bikeway network itself. You think these things just happened on their own?

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          • David Hampsten February 8, 2018 at 3:17 pm

            Portland planners pushed apartment zoning onto commercial streets in East Portland after annexation as part of the 1996 SE Community Plan (which confusingly went as far north as Halsey), creating a nightmare situation there of high-density poorer neighborhoods along major arterial streets without corresponding traffic calming. Thanks to enlightened city planners of all genders pushing housing into the Portland suburbs in the 80s and 90s, Portland now has a 29-square-mile suburban ghetto worthy of Chicago’s South Side, East St. Louis, or Camden NJ, with regular pedestrian deaths and murders. Meanwhile the inner parts of Portland, especially the Pearl and South Waterfront Districts, are increasingly the exclusive preserve of the richest 10%.

            As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and planners as a group are the best intentioned people on the planet.

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            • GlowBoy February 8, 2018 at 8:31 pm

              I’m not saying seemingly well-intentioned Planners haven’t made colossally bad decisions over the decades, but to deny they have a major influence is ridiculous.

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              • q February 8, 2018 at 8:45 pm

                And for that matter, the fact that planners’ colossally bad decisions have such colossally bad impacts is proof of how much power planners have.

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      • antianti February 7, 2018 at 10:19 pm

        While Olmstead spent much time here, the city opted to not move most of his suggestions. His influence here was minimal from what I recall.

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        • q February 8, 2018 at 3:25 pm

          Your comment got me reading, and you’re right, lots of the recommendations weren’t carried forward, although I’m not sure I’d call the influence minimal, just much less than it could have been. In any case, too bad for us today. Some of the recommendations would have been so easy to carry out back then vs. now.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 6, 2018 at 2:49 pm


      I think you’re getting distracted by a word. I don’t see the need to debate who plans cities and what we call them. This is about getting more women — and people who don’t identify as men — front and center in how our cities are built/designed/planned/talked about/lived in/ and so on and so forth.

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      • q February 6, 2018 at 3:43 pm

        All this is a good reminder that there are lots of roles and directions from which people can influence cities, and getting diverse (gender and otherwise) input is always good. In regard to women, there have been/are significant contributions to shaping cities from women who are in fields other than “planning”–real estate and development, education, architecture, etc.

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      • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 12:28 am

        Your formula can only produce failure. You don’t hire a planner because of the stuff between their legs. You hire them because of the stuff between their ears. We need people to be qualified for the jobs we hire them to do based on their skills, not based on M or F on their birth certificate.

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        • q February 7, 2018 at 2:11 pm

          Using an example from the article, one of Johnston-Zimmerman’s professors said that 95% of the required readings in his curriculum were written by men. What’s the explanation for that? That women aren’t interested in becoming planners, or in writing? Or that they’re interested, but not capable? Or maybe that half the good planning articles are written by women, but this professor picked only ones by men? None of those seem likely.

          Isn’t it a clue that there’s a good possibility that for some reason, women aren’t making it into positions where they’re writing articles on planning? And that that reason might be something other than they’re not interested, or capable? Has it been true that planners have been hired “because of the stuff between their ears” but women either haven’t wanted to be hired, or wanted to but weren’t any good at it?

          The fact that half the population has been so underrepresented in shaping cities is a problem, and clearly whatever has been going on the past to produce this situation hasn’t been working well. If it’s because they’ve faced barriers (my belief) that’s a problem. If it’s something more extreme–that women aren’t represented well in city planning because they don’t want to be, or they’re not capable of it (not my beliefs) then that’s an even bigger problem.

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          • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 8:23 pm

            How does the fact that many women choose to not work outside the home, or choose to leave a career to stay at home once they have kids, or to quit a career to help with grandkids, etc affect the statistics? It’s significant.
            How are the statistics affected by the fact that in our society men have MUCH greater pressure on them than women to achieve, and bring home the bacon? Between these 2 things, it explains 100% of any disparities you may think exist.

            Every person in this country is free to do any job they want IF they work at it and out-perform others who want the same job. Many men fail at their goals, same with women. There is very little discrimination of any kind, other than perhaps age and affirmative action, in the USA.

            That professor by the way did not say WHAT his curriculum was – maybe it was electrical engineering – women may be scarce in that field. It may have been planning. Women can do any mental job as well as or better than a man – IF they are trained for it and want it bad enough. I would not want to be a planner – it’d be boring to me. I suspect may women feel the same way!

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            • q February 7, 2018 at 8:40 pm

              There’s a lot to respond to there. I think I can summarize it by saying that, by your reasoning above, the fact that 74% of pro basketball players and 70% of pro football players today are black, while those percentages were ZERO only a few decades ago, is due the fact that black players weren’t previously interested in becoming professionals, and didn’t previously have the same pressures to achieve and bring home the bacon that white players had.

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              • Smarty Pants February 8, 2018 at 12:22 am

                You are correct that in the past there was discrimination against some people – that was the distant past – we are in the here and now – a different world in many ways. Thank you for making the point that TODAY minorities can become what they want to become. Now, can every minority become a pro athlete? No. Do they all have the opportunity to try? Yes. Can they all become president? No, but all of them can try if they meet the constitutional citizenship and age requirements – same with whites, which, in case you didn’t know are now a minority. Yes, perhaps not by the official numbers, but there are enough folks here that are undocumented, that the government numbers are no longer relevant.

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      • David Hampsten February 7, 2018 at 12:53 am

        JM, thank you for the clarification.

        Smarty Pants, while I generally agree with you, another important component is persuading others to make decisions and to spend money in certain ways, which often is influenced by the way the persuaders look, including their race, gender, symmetry, height, the cloths they wear, and perfect teeth, and not just what they say and how well they think. Alas, we are still quite far away from fulfilling MLK Jr’s dream.

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  • Clarence Eckerson February 6, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Lots of great rising stars in the movement are women! We all need to support them so make a donation!

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  • Clicky Freewheel February 6, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Portland has a fair amount of women in leadership positions and still manages to not get anything done. Perhaps bureaucracy knows no gender discrimination? At any rate, a greater percentage of women making decisions certainly would be a good thing as long as they are qualified for the job and would at the very least, lead the discussion in a different direction. Having more perspectives involved in decision-making processes should be actively sought after.

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    • David Hampsten February 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      As I recall, you have a liberal female governor who supports increased freeway speed limits, more freeway capacity, and concealed handguns. You also have a Multnomah County commission that is mostly (entirely?) female, including its chair.

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      • Clicky Freewheel February 6, 2018 at 12:07 pm

        Yep, and we also have two women on City Council, one of whom is famously anti-development/density and the other has exacerbated the housing crisis with reactionary policies. If we are to believe in gender equality then it would stand to reason that women are equally as capable of f-ing things up as men are. 😛

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      • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 12:33 am

        It is true that CHG can make women more likely to be equal to a man, so that’s a good thing. Pass ’em out, train the ladies, empower them to be able to defend themselves against any man. Thats what equality looks like. 😉

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        • David Hampsten February 7, 2018 at 12:54 am

          Maybe one day we might even communicate with gender-neutral pronouns…

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          • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 2:22 pm

            I hope not. I hope we are willing to tell the truth and don’t get to the point where lying is acceptable. I know many are willing to accept it, but with luck the truth will come out and people will come to their senses. This excellent video touches on the topic:

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  • joan February 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    This is great! I hadn’t seen Katrina’s Next City piece, which is excellent. I love that she’s calling not just for inclusivity or more participation by women, but for women to be the leaders.

    (And, the comments really reinforce the point she’s making.)

    Cheers, Katrina! Thanks for your work and contributions!

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  • John Liu February 6, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    I do not believe in having a “quota” system in government. However, I believe the talent, experience, and insight of women (among others) is under-utilized and that the structural reasons for that have got to change. In government and elsewhere. I was happy to read this article and appreciate BP posting it.

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    • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 12:37 am

      There are no “structural” reasons. When a 7th grade girl is awesome in math, no one comes over to her and says: “You need to knock off studying math, and start studying more art and literature.”

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      • 9watts February 7, 2018 at 7:07 am

        **Comment deleted by moderator**

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      • q February 7, 2018 at 2:58 pm

        If you’ve ever been a 7th grade girl who was awesome in math, or have talked to women who were, you’d know that that’s not true, other than maybe in a purely literal sense. That is, while nobody may use the exact words you did, there will be plenty of communication from other students, adults, and society that will question their pursuit of math, or other “male” subjects. That doesn’t mean they won’t get positive messages, too, but the idea that they don’t get plenty of pushback is false.

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        • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 7:56 pm

          I don’t believe that women are encouraged to not go into “men” jobs – especially jobs in business, or STEM fields. There may be some push-back if a woman wants to become a construction worker, policeman, fireman, soldier, etc – jobs that require more physical strength. Obviously most women are not as strong as a typical man; although among urban males, that may be less so today than in decades past – many of them are becoming somewhat effeminate. 🙂 No offense, it’s just a fact, in many cases, but of course not all cases. So, if you’re reading this, YOU are not in this category, right? 😉

          If I had a daughter, I might push back if she wanted to go into some dangerous job that men typically do. For example, I do not believe that women should be in combat positions in the military – that’s just my own belief about it – and it’s based on the fact that a woman just does not have the strength of a man to pick up a wounded soldier and take off running with him over her shoulders, etc.

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  • Jim Lee February 6, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Katrina is late to the game: Vera was pretty darn good.

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    • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 12:37 am

      That’s why our bike infrastructure is the best, right?

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  • FRED_TRAMPLER February 6, 2018 at 5:35 pm


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    • q February 6, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      That’s what this is all about. Currently large segments of the population face barriers to being put in positions they’d do well in, despite being the most qualified, because of their sex, race, or religion.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 6, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Hi Fred,

      That’s not a good idea because it just perpetuates the problem.

      The reason some people are more qualified than others is because they have more advantages in the system.

      Until those advantages are more equally distributed, we must be willing to promote and hire people who might not have the same qualifications.

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      • JeffS February 7, 2018 at 10:06 am

        How insulting statements like this must be to members of whatever identity groups you’re speaking of.

        This is the sexism/racism/whatever that you’re claiming to be against.

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        • q February 7, 2018 at 12:34 pm

          Why? Typical qualifications for many jobs would be a track record of having good jobs and a good education. To get those, you need good prior jobs and prior education. Working backwards, you have advantages getting those by going to good schools early on, and having family resources and connections, etc.

          There’s all kinds of evidence that poor children have worse schools, that girls get channeled towards non-science/math studies, etc.

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    • 9watts February 6, 2018 at 9:16 pm

      And for what it’s worth, caps lock ≠ most qualified

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    • 9watts February 7, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      It is fascinating to me that this ALL CAPS post got 9 upvotes.

      It seems to me that Mr. q’s comments here are spot on, and that we’d long since moved beyond this now discredited though perhaps comforting idea that our system works perfectly to advance the most qualified regardless of age, sex, religion, etc. But I guess we have not. So I’d be curious for those who upvoted Mr. ALL CAPS’ comment to explain to us how they understand the current widespread underrepresentation of women at the top of the hierarchies in both the private and public sector IN THE US? Because in countries where they have actively sought to overcome this—and achieved parity—it has by all accounts worked: The sky did not fall, but it did require effort.

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      • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 2:15 pm


        Nothing to explain. More men want the high-stress, more difficult jobs that may include the horrifice spotlight of running for election than women do. More men are willing to do the hard work necessary to be successful in very difficult jobs. That’s OK. There are plenty of exceptions: Nikki Haley, Condoleeza Rice, Carly Fiorina, thousands of women scientists, doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, etc. In the USA, we applaud those women AND men who can do difficult jobs successfully – they make our nation more successful which is a good thing for all of us. We don’t want to promote people to positions that they are not qualified to do – we want the very best when we can get it. We’ve tried it the other way for decades and the results have been, at best, mediocre – we’re tired of mediocre and are now willing to tell and vote the truth so we can have excellence instead. Mediocre will destroy us.

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        • q February 7, 2018 at 2:25 pm

          And we hear constantly from many of the thousands of women in those professions that they’ve faced barriers in getting where they are due to their gender, such as being passed over for advancement by less capable men, being less likely to receive mentoring, being paid less, etc. etc. etc.

          And in this article, we’re hearing from a woman about those same kind of issues being present in her profession.

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        • q February 7, 2018 at 4:20 pm

          You wrote, “More men are willing to do the hard work necessary to be successful in very difficult jobs.”

          I’m not at all sure that’s true, but assume it is. Why would that be the case? Is it because men are harder workers? Or is it because women know that for an equal amount of hard work, they’ll make less money than their male counterpart. Or because men will get praised when they achieve success, but women will be criticized along with the success? Or is it because men know they can concentrate on their careers, and even have children if they want, knowing that society will support them if they leave the bulk of child-rearing duty to their wives, whereas a woman who focuses on her career will be criticized for abandoning her children even if she is able to find a husband who will agree to raise them?

          There are lots of big issues involved here. It goes the other way, too, with men who want to be more involved raising children (as one example).

          If the women you named as good examples had been born a decade or so earlier, it’s likely they wouldn’t have achieved anything close to what they did in their careers. Society never would have benefited from their contributions. Society was certainly worse off in the days (not too long ago) when Condoleeza Rice wouldn’t have allowed to attend most colleges because of her skin color.

          Today, we still have a long way to go to make sure people who have the capacity to make great contributions aren’t stopped by barriers placed in their way.

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          • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 7:40 pm

            I’ve been working since 1974. Never saw a woman who wanted to be successful being held back. When I was doing hard physical work that few women could do even if they wanted, I never saw a woman apply for those jobs. Unlike me, they were not stupid enough to apply! Few men today could do those jobs, and even fewer would even if they could. 🙂
            Later, during 30 years in the STEM field, I had men bosses and women bosses. I did not want to be a boss, so that limited my career. That’s OK – that was my choice. In STEM jobs, they are going to promote those with the best skills and highest chance for success in the new job. Failure is expensive – it could bankrupt a company. Just because you want an upper management job doesn’t mean you can do it successfully.

            Never saw discrimination based on gender or anything else. I don’t think it’s a problem – and if a woman, or a man, is in a company where that is a problem then find another company to work for! It’s that easy! If they are talented, they can get a job, IF there is a market for their talent. If they think they are so talented but still can’t find a job, start their own company! If, in fact those women exist that you mentioned, my guess is they weren’t a talented as they thought.

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            • 9watts February 7, 2018 at 7:45 pm

              “Never saw discrimination based on gender or anything else.”


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              • Smarty Pants February 8, 2018 at 12:41 am

                I provided the solution for those who believe the company they work for is discriminating against them. Life is a series of problems. Do we want to solve those problems or whine about them? No law against sending out resumes to other firms. 😉

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            • q February 7, 2018 at 8:20 pm

              So you say in four decades of working you “never saw discrimination based on gender or anything else”. Yet people in other groups–the woman in the article, for instance–say discrimination is prevalent in their own experiences. Could it be that you’re having trouble believing them because your own experience differs from theirs?

              That’s exactly why any group (city planners or whatever) making decisions that affect others needs to be diverse. Or QED as 9watts wrote.

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    • GlowBoy February 8, 2018 at 9:38 am

      Hey Fred, I would agree that a merit-based system – where we had the most qualified and dedicated people regardless of race, gender or other identity groups – would be great.

      But we’ve never had that. Given the historic disempowerment of an awful lot of potentially successful people, it would seem that a strong emphasis on “equity” and “fairness” would be a good step on the road to getting there.

      (As an aside, I don’t know what is Marxist about this. Marx might have been a lot of things, but woke was not one of them).

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      • David Hampsten February 8, 2018 at 2:49 pm

        Any discussion about social structures that affects individual decision making and/or the ability of a social group to make or effect changes, is usually borrowing ideas best articulated by Karl Marx, especially discussions about gender, race, caste, class, or even profession. He wasn’t the only one, but he is among the most influential.

        On some of the threads, one can see writers (probably unintentionally) highly influenced by thinking from the enlightenment on how individuals are mostly in control of their own destinies, versus writers who believe one’s destiny is more determined by social inequity and advantages of birth.

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  • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 12:44 am

    Katrina has surely stirred the pot here on BP by proposing that the solution to the cities woes is to put more women in charge. I’d have been more impressed if she’d have proposed something that would actually make the city better. Does she have no ideas other than “we need more women” in charge?

    I’d have to agree with Fred above – we need people who are qualified. Most of our cities are run by all types of minorities, and most of those cities are failures, nearly bankrupt, overrun with crime, housing shortages, etc, etc.

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  • Tim February 7, 2018 at 7:19 am

    A fair hiring / promotion system should be actively pursued…. But, isn’t ONLY using race/sex/gender/orientation (instead of actual qualifications), just as unfair/biased as the current system?

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    • 9watts February 7, 2018 at 7:23 am

      Are you saying that *right now* we rely on actual qualifications?

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      • JeffS February 7, 2018 at 10:09 am

        No. We, meaning Portland, are run by prejudice and preference. We call it equity.

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      • Tim February 8, 2018 at 7:12 am

        I believe most jobs are filled based on “actual qualifications”. If you are hiring a dump truck driver, someone without a drivers license is NOT “as qualified” for the job as someone with 20 years experience!

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        • GlowBoy February 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

          Is that really how dump truck drivers are hired? Seems to me that’s something women could do just as well as men, but I don’t see that many women driving them. Perhaps there are additional non-merit based barriers to entry that are invisible to you?

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          • Smarty Pants February 9, 2018 at 7:04 pm

            I’ve seen plenty of women truck drivers. Not sure about dump trucks specifically. Many driving jobs require that you are able to lift significant weight – so the job is not just “driving”. That would limit the number of women who are interested – would also weed out men with back problems, etc.

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  • Carl Abbott February 7, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Katrina’s point, well supported in scholarly research, is that women, on the average, use cities in different ways than men do, and men are sometimes oblivious to those differences (examples might include different transportation needs because of a heavier burden of household care, or different concerns about personal safety in public places). Anybody can act on these concerns, but it may take women to move such concerns up the agenda. It is not about who is in charge, but about how they perceive and define problems and needs.

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    • q February 7, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Yes, and the issue to me is that if you don’t have a diverse group having input, you don’t even know what kinds of input you’re missing.

      And for people concerned about qualifications, when it comes to shaping cities you need people who are qualified to understand the various types of people who live in them. That’s not a qualification you get by getting a degree in something. Nobody is more qualified to understand what’s it’s like to live in a city for a woman than a woman, for old people or families than old people and people with families, etc.

      And the “qualifications” issue is tricky, too, because at some point, there are people choosing what the important qualifications are, so you need diverse input at that point, too. Otherwise you get narrowly defined, arbitrary “qualifications” that arbitrarily kick people out who don’t have those particular arbitrary qualifications.

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      • Tim February 8, 2018 at 8:31 am

        I agree with you 100% on the diverse group input being important, I also agree that we need a diverse group to decide on the “qualifications”, But we seem to differ on how to achieve that!

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    • Smarty Pants February 7, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      That’s why we have public input on many public projects. Everyone who wants to, gets to voice their opinion whether they work for the government or not. A man is fully capable of hearing and understanding the comments of women as vice-versa. There is no upside to hiring based on gender, race, etc.

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      • q February 7, 2018 at 2:21 pm

        Except that’s not true. Take an easier example than gender. Is a planner who’s never commuted on a bicycle in traffic–even one who rides recreationally–as capable of understanding the needs and concerns of a bike commuter as a planner who IS a bike commuter himself? Hardly anyone would say yes. So why would you assume that would be true of a man understanding needs and concerns of women, or vice versa?

        Plus, everyone knows that the person who provides “public input” has much less ability to shape decisions than people staffing the projects. Otherwise, anyone could staff the project, and anything they didn’t understand or know could be furnished by the public.

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  • Jim Lee February 7, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Per accidens ad miserecordia

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  • Jim Lee February 7, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Mistake in Latin!

    The preposition “ad” takes the accusative, not the ablative. Should be “ad miserecordiam,” first declension accusative singular.

    Needless to say, gender is feminine.

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  • Out of state February 7, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    I came to this page to read about what features of a city a woman would change, to make it more amenable(!) to women. But I didn’t see any such ideas in the story. Maybe an online brainstorming discussion would be less time-intensive and more productive.

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    • Zoe February 8, 2018 at 8:59 pm

      There are some interesting examples – but most of the ones I’m familiar with are not American. Karlskroga, Sweden, decided to clear its pedestrian and bike paths (and areas around daycares) of snow before clearing roadways. Women tended to use the first three more than the latter. Stockholm is considering a similar prioritization..
      A number of Swedish cities have been looking into how women use public space, and how design could encourage their use.

      And a Citylab article on Vienna – an old one but an interesting read:

      A couple of topics women tend to think about more that impact urban planning, design, and public space: personal safety, esp. after dark; complex trip chaining (involving childcare dropoffs or eldercare- yes, it’s usually us); the importance of 8-to-80/universal design and basic things like curb-ramps for strollers.

      -A woman, mother and urban planner who chooses to remain anonymous on this site because it’s not really welcoming to women, as evidenced by this really disappointing stream of comments above.

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  • soren February 8, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Apart from the two first comments, this sausage fest thread is a dumpster fire of misogyny and sexism.


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    • Dan February 8, 2018 at 12:13 pm

      You’ve described pretty much most of the all comment threads on this site.

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      • Smarty Pants February 9, 2018 at 2:57 am

        I have heard more intelligent conversations coming from chicken coops than on a typical BP thread.

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    • David Hampsten February 8, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Perhaps so. But why did you read all or most of the posts?

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  • El Biciclero February 10, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Since when is anything run, or it’s leaders not controlled by, people with money? What we need are more women with money. We like to think that everyone has a voice, which they do, but not everyone has a string to pull. Man or Woman, without money, you are literally nothing but a “resource” to be influenced, used, and controlled by those with money.

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