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Babies at Conferences

March 15, 2008

There is a demonstrated need for childcare options at planetary science conferences such as the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Every year, a number of women stay home because they cannot count on adequate child care or an acceptable place to nurse. This further isolates them, reducing the opportunity to present their work, catch up on others’ work, make important networking connections, and participate fully in collaborations. The group discussing what do to about maternity leave and babies at conferences grew rapidly and wants to see change in the following areas.

1. A clean, private room for nursing mothers to use to breastfeed their infants and/or pump on conference days. This simple accommodation would make all the difference to new moms. It was confirmed that there are suitable suites in the conference hotel that are typically reserved for this purpose during professional meetings.

2. Conference provided daycare for infants and young children. There was discussion of whether the cost should be subsidized, and by how much. Three memorable comments, from concerned women: “We’re already paying for a week of daycare at home; an additional week in League City is a burden.” “Why not skip the conference tote bags next year and provide free daycare for new moms?” And, in response to the statement that not everyone has children and this could be viewed as an unfair cost for the conference to bear, “Well, I don’t drink coffee, and yet conference funds are used to pay for that!”

3. An expanded list of recommended drop-in daycare options close to the conference hotel. This is a second choice to conference-provided daycare, but it is recognized that a suitable site for onsite care of more than a few children would be difficult to provide at the current conference hotel.

4. Consideration of the need for nearby drop-in daycare options, or on-site conference provided day care, when LPSC is moved to a larger venue. As LPSC moves, this should be recognized as part of the new requirements.

5. Online discussion boards where women could make arrangements to support each other at conferences and smaller meetings throughout the year.

It was noted that a number of women were missing this year due to the lack of child care and/or nursing accommodations.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. susanniebur permalink*
    March 16, 2008 12:50 am

    The group also suggested an additional improvement to the nursing room idea. Many larger conferences routinely televise certain sessions over closed circuit TV that is available in the hotel sleeping rooms. The provision of closed circuit TV in the nursing room and/or sleeping rooms (where a mother may be stuck with an unexpectedly sick child) would further improve the odds that nursing moms would get to see a significant portion of the conference.

    Of course, this leads into ideas for recording and podcasting talks so that even those who may not have travel funds, good health, or time for conferences could benefit as well….


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