Jessica Jackley was turned away from TEDWomen 2015 for bringing her 5-month-old breastfed baby to the conference. She was informed that there was a strict no-child policy and forced to leave. Ultimately, after shouting out on social media, the conference organizers realized their massive misstep and admitted to handling the situation poorly in the moment and later made arrangements for her to view the sessions via simulcast. June Cohen, executive producer of TEDWomen referenced the no-child policy as their way of “creating an immersive experience” and went on to compare allowing a breastfeeding child to having cell-phones on in the sessions. Chew on that for a minute.
I am glad that Cohen and the folks at TEDWomen were able to acknowledge their error and rectify it. However, I take issue with a conference that has been created to elevate women in the workforce and inspire change having a completely mother un-friendly environment. The theme for this years event is Momentum.
“TEDWomen 2015 will explore how change begins: with innovative thinkers who share big ideas and catalyze action toward them. In others words: with momentum. In this year’s program we’ll hear from scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors, artists and activists with the kind of ideas that ignite imaginations. What will happen from there? TEDWomen 2015 is a chance for you to be a part of the story.”
Why TEDWomen, are you not yourselves creating Momentum? Why don’t you have a nursing/pumping room with a simulcast feed of the event so that mothers can bring along a caregiver and step out to nurse and/or pump? Why do you not have childcare options available? Why have you created an environment that makes it HARDER for women with children to learn, grow and be inspired? Why are you perpetuating a stereotype that only women who aren’t burdened by small children are capable of being leaders in the workforce? Just why?
I think it’s really a sad testament of where we stand as women. We can talk about ‘society views us as this’, or talk about how we aren’t respected, but when one of the leading institutions propelling change and pushing women to excel in business is holding us back, we, ourselves, are the problem. Women, regardless of their parental status are smart, and bold and powerful, but for some reason we have allowed this story to be written. A story that only a “certain kind of woman” can be those things. A story that if you choose to value family and motherhood, then you obviously are not smart, powerful, ambitious and capable of greatness. TEDWomen, you can hire the greatest, most powerful, inspiring women in the world to speak about how to move forward, but your actions are greater than those words. The story you have told us, the story you are telling the young women in our world is that family and motherhood has no place in a successful career.
- Fact: 69.9% of mothers with children under 18 work.
- Fact: Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40% of all households with children under the age of 18.
- Fact: On average a woman’s pay decreases 4% for every child she has.
Moms work. Moms that work are undervalued, often unsupported and underpaid. Why does an organization geared towards inspiring women to change NOT actually do anything to help these women. Why have you written these women off? Why are you not doing everything in your power to show these women how smart, talented, inspiring and powerful they can be? Why aren’t you setting an example for businesses that small accommodations can bear great rewards? I am baffled. As a woman I am frustrated. As a mom I am saddened.
Let’s tell a new story. A story that doesn’t define a woman’s worth, drive or capabilities by her parental status. We don’t define men by fatherhood…why do we do it to ourselves?