Wednesday, January 16, 2013

If Only All Conferences Could Be As Accommodating As CUSEC

I'm speaking at the Canadian University Software Engineering Conference (CUSEC) tomorrow in Montreal.   I need to spend some time giving the conference organizers a huge public kudos not only for the fact that women make up a third of their speaker list, but also for all their efforts in accommodating me and my situation (you know, the mom thing).

One of the best things about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is that they get what it's like to be a mom.  They offer free daycare to participants to make sure you can attend when it's less than simple to leave your kid(s) at home.  (For instance, it's not always impossible to leave a nursing infant behind, but it's a whole lot easier to bring her!)

It doesn't always make sense to offer daycare, and since CUSEC is a student-oriented event, I wouldn't expect there to be a need at this particular conference.  But the CUSEC organizers did want to find a way for me to be able to attend the entire conference, and they went above and beyond in finding a way to make that happen.

Although it turned out he couldn't come, they worked hard to make it possible for my husband to attend.  If he came, baby Molly could come, because we could share Molly-watching duties.  (We haven't quite worked out the whole me-leaving-for-a-night thing yet, though we will have to soon!)

In the end, I'm going to attend just for the day.  I would have loved to participate in the rest of the conference, but not to worry - Molly will be older next year, so I should be able to get away much more easily and often.

I wish more conferences could consider family situations for speakers and attendees.  It would make attending easier for many women for sure, and probably many men as well.  Might be a small step toward seeing more diversity at traditionally male-dominated tech conferences!


Melanie Perry said...

That's wonderful they were so accommodating to work with you.

I typically go to one away conference a year. The ratio is probably 25% female these days (it was much lower when I started going 12 years ago).
I went one year pregnant, and missed another year when my youngest was an infant. The venue wasn't very bladder friendly, but, as I was probably the only expectant mother attending, I can't fault them.

It is tough being away from home, and I wish my husband still attended with me, but, I do leave them all at home now.

The funniest thing is actually the number of people who ask me how my husband handles the kids when I'm away. The only difference is more scrambled eggs and cookies.

I'd imagine they would have arranged a lactation room near the conference upon request (which is quite a distance from the hotel rooms).
Either way, it's great to see organizers showing their caring and leveling the playing field a bit.

Gail Carmichael said...

My husband actually did come to Grace Hopper this year along with the baby, and it was fantastic having us all there! They had lactation rooms in addition to daycare there, too. I ended up having friends at CUSEC, so I just used their room to pump, but I am sure they would have set something up, too.

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