Andy Lester

Technology, careers, life and being happy

Geek conferences for families

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Skud asked me a few weeks ago if I’d mention something here about support for women with children at geek conferences. Specifically, she asks for updates to the Geek Feminism wiki page on childcare and women-friendly events.

What jogged this in my mind was a geek conference of another kind. I went to the American Library Association’s annual conference on Saturday, and they were very family friendly. A big sign by registration pointed to the child care area, and there were plenty of amenities to help conference-goers with families:

Child Care and Camp ALA
Make this year’s annual meeting a family affair. Once again, ACCENT on Children’s Arrangements, Inc. has planned a great children’s activity center for ALA convention attendees’ children. ACCENT is a nationally recognized professional childcare company organized to provide quality on-site children’s activities in a nurturing, safe, educational environment. ACCENT’s counselors are fun-loving professionals with plenty of experience with children. With activities such as arts and crafts projects, active games, movies and much more, the children are sure to have a great time. The fun includes optional field trips for children ages 6 and older.

CAMP ALA welcomes children ages 6 months – 17 years, and is available Friday, July 10-Tuesday, July 14. The cost for the camp is $80 per child per day. Parents pay $48 per child per day for the center and ALA funds $32 per child per day. An optional $15 lunch is available, or children can bring their lunch. If you prefer, you can register your child for a field trip day instead (children ages 6 years and older only), which includes lunch. The cost for each child with a field trip is $90 per day. Parents pay $58 per child for the field trip day and ALA funds $32 per child per day. A $10 Non-refundable registration fee per child is also required. Download a Children’s Program and Registration Form.

Children’s Policy
Strollers are permitted on the exhibit floor but only if there is a child in them at all times. Unescorted children are not permitted on the exhibit floor. Children under the age of five must be restrained at all times (stroller, back pack, etc.). Any child over the age of five must have an exhibits only badge to be admitted to the exhibit floor. These badges are available at onsite registration for $25. An adult must accompany all children under the age of 16.

New Mother’s Room
The New Mother’s Room is located in the First Aid Room, Level 1, near the Concierges, McCormick Place West.

Can you imagine a computer conference like this? Maybe they’re out there and I’ve just never been to one.

The wags out there will likely point out that librarian conferences skew female far more than techie conferences, and that’s true. But is that cause or effect?

2 Comments

  1. linux.conf.au isn’t quite that level of kid friendliness, but they do offer a partner + kid program that runs concurrently with the conference. I admit that is not perfect, but better than nothing. It is also true that the majority of partners are female, but not exclusively, and couples have been known to share conference vs. partners programmer.
    There have also in the past been sessions on ‘geek parenting’, and there is regularly a ‘LinuxChix’ miniconf.
    Like I said not perfect, but better than most tech conferences for at least some families.

  2. Hi Andy,
    Thank you for raising the issue in your blog. I’m not sure if you or Skud are aware of this, but developer and Mum Thayer Prime recently took her 6-month old daughter Nemi to Open Hack London. She wrote a first-hand account of the experience and has set up a UK-centric e-mail mailing list and wiki resource for best practices, solutions and childcare providers for those organising or attending conferences (more details here). It showed up a lot of support in the community for family-friendly geek conferences, as well as public scorn on Twitter (she was labelled by some a “bad” and “selfish” mother for her actions).
    Personally I’m not at the stage where I’m considering starting a family as I want to finish my education and be established in my career first, but even now it is a niggle in the back of my mind as childcare is expensive here in London and I don’t want to feel that I have to choose between motherhood and my career development. I welcome any and all initiatives that address the issue.

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