Work, us and our kids: childcare at conferences
Update: Was originally posted on 11 May, but then something went wrong, so I have to post it again.
[As a follow-up for Reboot 9.0: conversation about work, us and our kids?]
Last year at SHiFT I thought that it would be a while till I could go to another conference - having a little one around doesn't make things easier and it will be a while till I can go away for more then a few hours. This year I was very happy that Robert decided to go to Reboot as well - this (and the fact that we can drive to Copenhagen) made it possible for me, since we can take turns in taking care of Alexander during the conference.
We knew that having kids around would be accepted by others (Ton was pretty convincing about last years at Reboot), but in the process of booking I also found out that there is more this year:
[email from Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, the rebootguy]
Since so many people said they enjoyed the presence of kids and it really adds to that human feeling - us being there as humans and not as a profession/business - i've chosen to set up a kids corner this year including a nanny to watch the sleeping kids and alert the parents when they wake up or play with the kids that are a bit older. It's not gonna be 100% full service one nanny per kid, but a hint in the direction that it's encouraged to bring kids.
Yesterday, an email from Stephanie took it one step further:
We have had a daycare at a conference in the lab once and it was very well received. We were able to use more female keynotes than ever before , which makes me wonder if the biggest player in women in the top levels of academia is not the proverbial 'glass ceiling', but rather the 'simple' problem of scheduling family and work.
Stephanie's comment clicked with something else from "where are the women speakers?" discussion - difficulties of attracting women speakers
I want to share what I feel is an interesting and frustrating statistic: the ratio of men attending to those invited was about 1 in 3, yet for women it was 1 in 19. Here is a graph illustrating the invitation process:
You can see that although proportionally more women replied to my invitation (80% of women invited replied, as compared to 68% of men), the proportion who said they would attend was much lower, and the proportion who could actually attend was even lower. Basically, only one of the 30 women I invited who wasn't somehow involved in the planning was able to attend the event. I don't really understand why.
I guess one of the reasons why women can't come to conferences is because they might have an "additional" need for childcare. I first became aware that this could be part of a conference package at BlogHer (e.g. childcare info for BlogHer'07), but only after becoming a mother myself I realised that this is something that could make a difference.
On a side comment - to make a difference it should be visible at a conference web-site - who knows may be there are women who would come to Reboot if they find out that it's actually kids-friendly?