As I announced in a previous post, next May the University of Helsinki will host AIP2015, the biggest event in Inverse Problems to date. Some weeks ago I happened to read this post on the funny and interesting blog Tenure, She Wrote. Child care services at a conference? Brilliant! - I thought. I brought the idea to the chair of the organising committee and he immediately said yes, let's do it.
My dream would have been to offer also travel reimbursements for families, but - my bad - it was too late for me to search fundings for that (if by luck some generous benefactor is reading this post, please contact me!) and budgeting had been done already. Anyway I think we are sending a strong message, especially for women. For instance, I happen to travel sometime together with my husband and our small baby. He works as a babysitter while I focus on the conference, but it's a nice way to compromise between family life and the travelling that my job demands. We do also the other way around, thanks to the support of his company. When you have a kid, especially a small baby, peace of mind lays in small details and comforts you have at home and often do not find outside. I recall very well running around a small town in Spain, not finding any place to change a nappy in bars or restaurants, and having to rush back to the hotel. Or having no opportunity to breastfeed in a quiet corner in public spaces, with people not looking at you like you are exposing yourself.
These child care services, together with the welcoming environment for parents that Finland generally offers, are just an attempt to support parents to take part to such important academic event. Academic career requires a lot of mobility and this can be highly discouraging for parents and - let's face it - women in particular. My hope is that such kind of extra services, and maybe even travel grants/benefits for families, will become part of the normal organisation process of conferences in the future, because I feel it would not only help fixing up the gender gap in science, but the whole community, fathers included.
What do you think about it? Feel free to comment.