Why don’t tech-conferences have crying rooms?

Earlier this year I moved to Pittsburgh, PA, and tried to quickly immerse myself in the local tech-scene by going to a few conferences and joining a few meet-up groups. One of the first conferences I went to was Web Design Day, which was fantastic. It had a great line-up of speakers with a small, highly motivated audience. I met a lot of great people. In fact the conference had such a small audience that we all fit in one room and it was easy to meet nearly everyone in attendance.

One of the people I met there was a fellow mother who had brought her 9-month old baby along. Day care fell through and father was out of town. So mom was stuck with the baby and she decided to give conferencing-with-a-kid a try. She said it was going well, but she had to sit by the door so she could dash in and out when the baby started to fuss. Thankfully the sound-tech guys were nice and let her sit with them in the back room. She could at least still hear the talks, but she couldn’t see the slides.

My first reaction was. “That’s so cool. Way to be a super mom.”

My second reaction was. “What the f*@k? We’re technologists. This should be a solved problem.”

Churches have had “crying rooms” or “wailing rooms” for ages, why don’t we have them at tech conferences?

For those who may not know, crying rooms are rooms where parents can take their children when they start to fuss in the middle of a service. They are usually equipped with a projector or tv so parents can still watch the service while their kids wail away. It ensures that whole families can participate in the service.

When most people discuss mitigating the reasons mothers and fathers usually skip out on conferences, the discussion almost always hinges on the exorbitant cost of on-site daycare. What about the relative low-cost solution of a crying-room? In fact, so many conferences provide live-streaming of their talks now that in some cases all you would need is an extra room and a few dedicated internet hook-ups (so as not to over-tax the conference-wide wifi). A deluxe crying room would also come equipped with comfy couches, a mini fridge (for storing breast milk and formula), and a diaper changing station.

So, if you are hosting or planning a conference any time soon, I urge you to consider what it would take to build a crying room. It would make it that much easier for parents to participate and make your conference that much more inclusive.

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