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Organizing child-friendly academic conferences and workshops

I’m not a parent, but both my brothers who are PhD holders have children (in fact, one of them went through the PhD already having two small girls, aged 7 and 3), and my Mom is also an academic, so I’m quite sensitive to the challenges that academic parents face. I just participated in the annual meeting of the Mexican Association for Labor Studies (don’t ask, a very good friend of mine asked me to help him moderate a few panels, and I never say no to good friends) and noticed a sizeable number of female academics bringing their kids to the conference. I made a comment on Twitter as to how important it was to enable parents who are academics to bring their children to the conference.

But some of the responses to my tweet really impressed me, particularly some professors who had the smarts to PLAN beforehand and make sure to make the workshop/conference children-friendly.

This is important, because the opposite (e.g. having someone escort you out because your child became slightly unruly) also happens (see tweet below by my friend Rachel Tiller).

While it’s hard for me to really understand all the challenges associated with balancing parenthood and academic life, I am well aware of them and I strongly advocate for those whose voices we often don’t hear enough.

I advocate for a kinder academia, and part of this advocacy includes, in my view, a children-friendly atmosphere at conferences. Luckily, it appears as though major learned societies like the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and the International Studies Association (ISA) are also responding too.

And my good friend Amanda Bittner has now put forth the challenge to the organizers of Congress 2016 in Calgary (I will be going, as it’s Canadian Political Science Association, CPSA, and it’s where my brother lives so I have plenty of reasons to come visit, including my two little nephews!). In fact, I may bring my nephews one of the days to CPSA.

EDIT – Amanda makes an important point: the challenge that not having “on-site” child-minding presents for academics who are nervous about leaving their children with someone else.

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