The good news is that faculty, staff, and students who take advantage of this relatively new service at meetings now have a way to attend conferences and advance their careers as single parents or dual-career parents. Without such a service, it fair to say their professional development and networking would be (and has been for some) hampered. Reduced opportunities to speak about your work, meet colleagues, and hear about the latest greatest work in the field translates for many to reduced career growth.
The bad news is that the childcare services are heavily overpriced for reasons that probably relate to the observation that the companies have large expenses of their own. Some of them travel around the country to conferences, essentially offering a mobile unit of childcare. They also clearly have a monopoly on the price of care as they are the only service at the conference site. No competition breeds hefty prices. Moreover, bringing children to conferences is bad news for the travelers as the children's airfare has to be covered somehow.
About a year ago, I asked the twitterverse if any universities have family friendly policies that support the costs of child airfare or childcare services at conferences. It just seemed like a natural thing to provide yet my own institution did not. I got one reply, and that one was enough to launch a search for how common this service is. Since then, Ive noticed a number of universities that provide such a service. They are listed below.
If you don't have a family friendly travel policy at your own academic institution, well hopefully you now have some motivation to write your Faculty Senate about driving the change. I am going to do so right away (example letter to Vanderbilt below). If you do have a family friendly travel policy that isn't on this list yet, let me know and Ill add it.
Cornell University | Faculty Dependent Care Travel Fund | $1500 per year
Northwestern University | Dependent Care Professional Travel Grant Program | $750 per year
University of Michigan | Child Travel Expense Policy | $1000 per year
Brown University | Dependent Care Travel Fund | $750 per year
UC Berkeley | Dependent Care Travel Policy | In development
December 27, 2014
Dear Paul and Colleagues:
Thank you for taking the time to read this proposal on behalf of Vanderbilt University's single and dual-career parents. From research staff to faculty, parents in academia often struggle to find the work-life balance and financial resources to attend national and international meetings because the costs of airfare and childcare services are near prohibitive. Indeed, childcare is an increasing and welcome trend at large meetings, yet without the support to travel to conferences, staff and faculty parents must restrict their professional development and networking. As a result, their (and Vanderbilt's) scholarship is at a disadvantage relative to parents who are not juggling a single or dual career in academia.
In response to this escalating demand, universities are launching Family-Friendly Travel Policies. I have listed five examples below with web links in red. Each of them support parents with financial assistance for airfare and/or childcare services to attend meetings. At a time when single and dual-career parents are rising, it seems that a similar policy at Vanderbilt would not only lift the burden of current employees, but serve as a recruiting tool for those that consider family policies in the job search. A reduced opportunity to speak about your work, meet colleagues, and hear about the latest work in the field translates for many to reduced career growth. We can eliminate this bias and at the same time lift the spirit around family-friendly policies at Vanderbilt.
Ø Cornell University | Faculty Dependent Care Travel Fund | $1500 per year
Ø Northwestern University | Dependent Care Professional Travel Grant Program | $750 per year
Ø University of Michigan | Child Travel Expense Policy | $1000 per year
Ø Brown University | Dependent Care Travel Fund | $750 per year
Ø UC Berkeley | Dependent Care Travel Policy | In development
Thank you very much for considering this Faculty Life principle.