Planners are incorporating child care into their events now more than ever. It makes a lot of sense, considering 54 percent of travelers taking bleisure (business and leisure) trips bring family members with them, according to a 2014 report by BridgeStreet Global Hospitality.
Groups ranging from the Salvation Army to Hyatt Hotels are providing entertainment for tots during conferences, making it easier for working mothers and fathers to attend. Code4Lib—a community of developers and technologists for galleries, libraries, museums and archives—offered child care for the second time in its 10-year conference history at its two-and-a-half-day event last summer. While it was convenient for attendees, the move had a deeper meaning.
“Since women are more often in the caretaker role and underrepresented at tech conferences, this was one way to improve on our gender diversity,” says Shaun Ellis, a past sponsorship committee chair and a user interface developer at Princeton University Library, noting Code4Lib attendees are about 40 percent women—high for a tech conference. “The lack of childcare at conferences prevents some of the best and brightest in the field from moving forward professionally, especially when networking and learning are important to career success.”
Code4Lib organizers worked with Philadelphia Nanny Network, which brought in toys and games. Childcare was held in a room at the host hotel, the location of which was only disclosed to parents of the children at drop-off. They raised $4,000 in sponsorships from Equinox Software and CurateCamp, but also charged $10 per day, in part to avoid no-shows.
Efforts proved successful, with about 12 to 15 children taken care of each day of the conference. Ellis says they plan to offer child care again at the 2017 conference. Does he think child care at meetings will become more common? “It’s not easy to organize conference child care, and cultural attitudes still need to evolve,” he explains. But he does have high hopes for the future: “Families may see professional development and networking conferences as opportunities to spend time together rather than apart. They can see the world and share the experience with other families in those communities.”