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In Support of Childcare at Professional Conferences

We As Women Need to Work Within the World We Have, Not the World We Want

Too often, today’s parents—especially those who answer to the name of ‘mom’—are pressured to believe that in order to be a fully realized human they must have it all, and to achieve this all without breaking a sweat. But what is the “it” we have to have all of? Is it the same for everyone? Or are our alls all different? We believe it’s the latter and that for true personal fulfillment and happiness it is important to focus on having your all, whether that all relates to personal or professional growth—or both. For working parents, especially mothers, this includes having access to reliable childcare so they have the freedom and flexibility to take advantage of opportunities such as relevant business conferences that can help further their career development. This also ensures a more diverse, well-rounded conference attendance, which is of benefit to everyone.   

It is our mission at Holiday Sitters to provide parents with on-demand, top-quality childcare so they can more easily balance life with kids. We are about so much more than traditional transactional babysitting; we strive to give parents the flexibility they need to keep their life in balance and the freedom to pursue any and all opportunities that come their way.  

That’s why we partner with conferences including The Next Web, to provide childcare to attendees—all attendees—with the primary goal of encouraging and supporting working mothers, so they are not kept sitting on the sidelines.  

Women For Women?

So imagine our surprise when we approached a large conference business, who creates conferences for women, and they dismissed us in hand saying there was no need or demand for childcare at its events. Childcare is of course a parenting issue but in the majority (not ALL but the majority) of today’s households, women are responsible for sorting and arranging care and more likely to take a career detour or pause after becoming a parent. As Faith Frank, the Gloria Steinem-esque character in the 2018 novel, The Female Persuasion, notes that despite an improvement in women’s lives between the 1970’s and 2010’s, in the instance that both parents work, the ‘double duty’ of work and childcare still falls mainly to women.    

General thinking on the matter among non-fictional women also appears to be split, if a recent discuss on a local business group on Facebook is any indication (the bubble implied by having this conversation on Facebook is a topic for another day). We shared our frustration with the response we got from the conference company mentioned above and the reaction—quite impassioned on both sides—was a further eye opener.

A sampling of comments firmly in the ‘con’ category:

Devil’s Advocate

Why should [childcare] be offered? It is NEVER offered when it is a conference for men, is it? To provide childcare is actually stereotyping women, no? Offer should be made at all conferences imho.

Expensive Set of Luggage

Children aren’t like luggage that we can pop in [a storage room]. They need to get used to their carers. A childcare facility at a conference means total unknown situation with total strangers (carer AND other children) for the child. NO WAY!

BYO Babysitter

If you want to spend time with your kids you do not go to a conference and leave them at the daycare. If you want to enjoy the trip outdoors as a family event, you can organize your own caretaker for the kids during the conference time. That said, I agree that would be better to have a daycare option to big (multi days) conferences and business events but this is true for all conferences and not only for the ones aimed at female audiences.

And in the ‘pro’ column:

Lead the Charge

When you have really forward-thinking conference organizers like [@The Next Web], they are willing to start the trend. It takes people who believe not just in the idea of childcare but in the idea of new ways of working to promote gender balance. You would think that a women’s conference would do that, but I encounter resistance from both men and women on things like this. Women I’ve spoken to are sometimes concerned about being too stereotypical or radical, so I wonder if that’s related. In any case, on a positive note, there *are* event organizers who care about this, I would go for the bigger ones first.

Cultural Matters

Great conversation. I think if you wanted to bring your children to a conference that had childcare it would not mean your children were like luggage. It would be nice to be in the same space as your children and they get to enjoy some activities while you network, etc. I get that some parents would not feel comfortable, but I also see what an advantage this would be for many parents. They do this in the States quite often. Is it a cultural thing that parents here don’t want to take advantage of this?

Chicken and Egg

It’s partly a chicken and egg problem. I know moms who never even look into attending conferences because they assume they never have childcare, because they usually don’t. But then conferences assume women don’t want childcare because many women who do want it never bothered trying to register to begin with. The cycle will only end when conferences just offer it anyway, and heavily promote it, and it becomes a norm. And to the people pointing out that it isn’t offered to men—I think you’re mixing up equality and equity. Women and men are not equal yet, and until they are, we need to offer them different accommodations to make their experiences equitable. Of course dads should have access to childcare at conferences too. But it’s more important at a conference for women because of the reality of society right now.

And a completely valid response that reflects a desire that the world be different than it actually is:

An Issue for Parents

I totally think there is demand, but this is another example where what is really a ‘parents’ issue’ for some reason becomes only a woman’s issue. These conversations should not be about women’s needs but parents’ needs. Otherwise we keep getting stuck in some cycle about women’s being the main [party] responsible for the kids.

Where Do We Go From Here? Forward.

The comments range from a fundamental resistance to on-demand childcare (we can assure you we have never treated the children whose care we are entrusted with as luggage) to equating catering to women as to somehow holding them back, to acknowledging the need while acknowledging the resistance to the need, to realizing we do live in a world where childcare still falls primarily to women and is just one issue holding them back professionally.

We choose to deal in the reality in which we live. As such we will keep reaching out to conferences to offer our childcare services. We believe we’ll get to the point where it will seem surprising that childcare services were at one time not a standard offering at professional conferences.

That’s our view. We’d love to hear yours. Please share your thoughts and experiences and solutions and frustrations below.