Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Closing Thoughts on Equitable Conferencing:
Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects
Jamie Levine Daniel and Shilpa Viswanath
We initiated the “Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects” blog series in February 2020, just before COVID-19 drastically impacted academic conferencing, and most other aspects of academia, for that matter. Since the Spring 2020 semester, conferences were put on hold, canceled, or conducted online as we navigate a period of uncertainty. However, what we can be most certain of is that caregiving in academia can no longer be an afterthought. COVID-19 highlights the challenges of caretaking in academia while working from home. The disparities resulting from care responsibilities, along with potential solutions, are discussed in the rich blog contributions appearing from February - May 2020. These emerging issues centered around lack of and clarity surrounding caregiving policy, unknown caregiving cost, difference in personal experiences, and variation across academic institutions. Bloggers shared personal reflections and innovative solutions that require a significant shift in thinking and practice to address caregiving in academia.  
Dr. Gina Scutlnicu identifies three challenges: lack of funding for childcare, lack of family support, and lack of/limited access to networking/visibility opportunities (something we will all have to grapple with). Dr. Seth Meyer underlines that while there is no one universal family (adoption, for example, comes with its own unique stressors), there are some universal experiences and needs. Similarly, Sombo Muzata Chunda and Layla Alanazi highlight the (lack of) uniform policies and the undesirable choices parents have to make between caregiving on a personal level and being left behind professionally. These issues are only going to be magnified as caregivers balance increasing caregiving with decreasing resources, in the face of continued professional pressures.
Multiple contributors called for funding (either conference scholarships or university funds) that can be used for dependent care expenses.  In addition, several contributors (Dr. Kendra Stewart, Dr. Elizabeth Berkowitz, Dr. Tony Carrizales, Dr. Viswanath, Hannah Lebovits) highlighted the need for visible signals and infrastructure: welcoming language, drop-in rooms, nursing stations, etc. This symbolic and active representation can help shift cultures.  Dr. Heath Brown highlighted the need for planning and logistics that allow for minimal travel/time spent away.  While we are not traveling these days, this advance notice is still critical to enable caregivers to participate in virtual networking opportunities.
In the introduction to this symposium, we noted that  “Academic conferences, an essential component of academic life, contribute a whole new element to the parenting and caregiving challenge.” We published those words approximately three months ago. Fast-forward to today. I sit here now, in the shadow of stay-at-home orders due to Covid-19, wondering how to close this symposium. My partner and I arranged schedules so I could get in some writing – he has the morning shift with our five-year old, while I have the afternoon shift (including cooking dinner).  Tomorrow, based on various meetings, we will switch. I will have the morning caregiving shift, and he will have the afternoon (including getting ready for Shabbat). Our world has narrowed to these half-day juggling acts.
Just as our day-to-day lives have changed, so too has conferencing, and the crux of academic work.  We will most likely not be meeting in large gatherings anytime soon.  Spring 2020 saw a slew of cancellations, summer conferences are following suit, and fall conferences seem to be increasingly inching toward virtual opportunities even as they voice aspirations of face-to-face meetings. Even as conferences move online, the caregiving challenges do not disappear. Research  points out that there are over 65 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States supporting ill, disabled, or aged family members. Additionally, research undertaken by the Lancet Commission on Women and Health reveals that over 70% of global caregiving hours are provided by women and girls. A report from the World Economic Forum points out that - “When it becomes difficult to balance caregiving with work, or if the demands of work come into conflict with one’s caregiving responsibilities, carers may be forced to cut back on their working hours or take a leave of absence. This impacts their ability to equally participate in the workplace.” Most of us will not be able to meaningfully participate in multiple days of back-to-back sessions of online conference sessions.  With college campuses shut and social distancing measures enforced in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus, faculty members with caregiving responsibilities are experiencing an amalgamation of their personal and professional lives making it harder to draw boundaries and dictate their work-life balance. This will remain an area to confront and adapt to in academic conferencing. 
Even as we ponder ways to make virtual conferencing in the post-COVID-19 era equitable, we thank our contributors for sharing deeply personal narratives and recommendations to improve conventional academic conferencing for caregivers. The issues they raised and the solutions they provided are important for us to consider when conferencing virtually and when we return to face-to-face meetings. Beyond conferencing, these considerations magnify the challenges many of us are facing in our own personal and professional lives now. Thank you, to the John Jay’s Women in the Public Sector blog for giving us the space to explore these issues.

Dr. Jamie Levine Daniel is an assistant professor at the Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. Her research focuses on the relationship between nonprofit resource acquisition and program service delivery, with particular experience interest on the relationship between earned revenue and mission.

Dr. Shilpa Viswanath is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. And, faculty affiliate at the University of Wisconsin - Madison’s Center for South Asia. Her research and teaching engage in themes of gender and social equity; labor unions and local governments, and, are rooted in her identities of being an immigrant in the United States, a faculty woman of color and a mother. She presently serves on the executive board of American Society for Public Administration’s Section for Women in Public Administration and, on the board of the Section for International and Comparative Administration. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Working Towards a Family Friendly Conference Culture
by Michael R. Ford

Several years ago I attended an academic conference in Florida.  It was a Friday to Monday conference and I presented on a Sunday. I flew down Saturday, presented Sunday, and flew home. It was a typical conference experience for me as a junior tenure-track scholar trying to build a record. In other words, it was nothing remarkable. What I did find remarkable was a critique I received from a senior scholar who attended the conference. He told me, bluntly, that I was behaving like an invited speaker, and that I had not yet earned that right.

I was taken aback. I had chosen this conference specifically because it was a weekend and afforded me the opportunity to actually go and present. Why? I have two school-aged children and my spouse works full-time. I get the kids ready in the morning, I feed them, and I get them to school. My spouse’s schedule is a bit unpredictable, so I need to be available to pick them up from afterschool care as well. At the time of this conference I was actually taking a friend’s child to school as well because their family had similar childcare challenges. For busy parents, being able to attend any conference is a major logistical challenge. My “behavior” was not arrogance, it was me making it work.

My family’s scheduling challenges are not unique. People in and outside of academia deal with similar challenges all the time. But for some reason we seem to lag behind in making our profession accommodating for those with young children. Conference presentations are essential to an academic career. It is hard enough with tight travel budgets for many of us to make it work. The last thing we need are senior scholars thinking that having family responsibilities somehow means we are not dedicated to our career.

As the president of the Midwest Public Affairs Conference (MPAC) I am committed to making our conference as accommodating as possible. The obvious first step is working to provide on-site child care. This can be difficult to arrange, and of course comes with a significant monetary cost. Funding childcare also means less money for stuff (bags, giveaways, fancy meals, etc). A second step is selecting locations that are easily drivable or accessible by train from Midwestern universities.  That means our locations may be less accessible to those outside of the Midwest, and perhaps not as exciting (at least on the surface) as popular national conference destinations. But even with childcare at the conference I am not buying three plane tickets for me to present one paper! A third step is creating family friendly receptions that are not too late at night, and not centered around alcohol. 

But perhaps the biggest thing I can do for MPAC (and we can do as a profession) is to normalize the idea of kids and families being part of the conference experience. Specific gestures matter, but a culture that embraces the reality that academics have family responsibilities, is something that will have a lasting impact. To change the culture all of us must be mindful of our own behavior and expectations regarding conferences. I know everyone will not be happy. If I have learned one thing running a conference, it is that at least some people will be critical of every decision you make. I get it. Some people want the flashy location, want the stuff, want the fancy meals, and do not want kids around. That is fine. But I am committed to carving out a space for those of us who need something different.

Michael R. Ford is an associate professor of public administration at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he teaches graduate courses in budgeting and research methods. He frequently publishes on the topics of public and nonprofit board governance, accountability and school choice. He currently serves as the president of the Midwest Public Affairs Conference.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

The Abstract Academic: Why We Need to Radically Change Conferences

by Nuri Heckler, University of Nebraska

We were awake for most of the night worrying. We just moved to Omaha and did not yet have a babysitter, much less a network of friends to help us care for the children when we were unavailable. Yet, she had an important meeting with several elected officials and I was scheduled to be at a national conference. Which of our careers would take the hit? Both of us felt guilt, hurt, and distrust. It is no wonder, I thought, that so many my fellow tenure-tracked colleagues were leaving the profession.
Feminist organizational scholar, Joan Acker argues that most workplaces are designed for an abstract worker who has few to no private life or health concerns, and is generally imagined as a white heterosexual man. 
What, then, is the abstract academic? 
You probably imagine someone who looks a lot like me. I am a white heterosexual man with a wife, two children, two advanced degrees, and a tenure-track appointment at a state university.
If we look any further, this ideal starts to break down. Women now hold more than half of all jobs in the American workforce, and a recent survey showed that 53 percent of assistant professors are women. Unlike the abstract academic, my wife is a lawyer and lobbyist for wageworkers, which is why I spent four years as a stay-at-home dad. We work consciously to share the childcare, and that means that when I leave for a conference, her life is significantly disrupted.
Conferences conflict with my values in two ways. Conferences disrupt my family’s lives. If I bring my children to a conference, they cannot be at their school, but research shows that absences profoundly impact their education. If I leave them home, my wife must negotiate her responsibilities to underserved clients to spend time doing logistics I normally manage. It is clear that conferences are designed for the abstract heterosexual academic man with a stay-at-home wife.
In the long term, conferences are even more irresponsible. Parents are keenly aware of the global climate crisis we face, and every time we get on an airplane, a part of us is thinking about the consequences for our children. In my case, flying to conferences accounted for more than half of my family’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. When I get on an airplane to fly to a conference, I force my children to clean up the mess that I know I’m creating.
It’s time we do better.
Conferences must enter the 21st century. Membership organizations, like ASPA, ARNOVA, APSA, PATNet, and APPAM should work on establishing regional conferences with opportunities to attend sessions electronically. Shorter regional conferences can accommodate working parents by establishing timelines that mostly overlap with weekends, and by enabling more participants to drive or take busses/trains with substantially lower carbon footprint. 
Connections between regions can be maintained using stable online technology. Used well, these systems can encourage working relationships across wide geographies. This process not only reduces the burden on parents, but also opens up conferences to participation from underrepresented areas in the global south.
Regional conferences like SeCOPA, NeCOPA, and MPSA already provide terrific opportunities. Adding a means of accessing panels and colloquia over the internet would enhance these conferences. Additionally, working on ways to facilitate topical conversations related to conference or panel themes would enable borderless collaboration. As these systems develop, it is crucial to include paywalls so that this technology does not unintentionally hollow out these important organizations.

Pursued carefully, these solutions can support a new image of the abstract public administration academic. A parent who prioritizes their family and their children’s future. This academic lives the values that the field of public administration advocates both in their public and their private lives. They live in a world that is more sustainable and cleaner, and they enjoy conferences even when they have young children. This abstract public administration academic is ready for the middle of the 21st century.

Nuri Heckler is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying administrative and Whiteness and Masculinity in public organization including governments, nonprofits, and social enterprise. He was a stay-at-home dad before going back to school to pursue his PhD. In his free time, he enjoys taking his kids hiking and cycling, introducing them to musical theater, and teaching them how to enjoy good food.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Creating Formal Representation for Parents and Caregivers at Academic Conferences
By Shilpa Viswanath, University of Wisconsin

I started my PhD program as a full-time graduate student and teaching assistant when my daughter was two years old. Reducing my experiences as a student parent to an issue of time-management would be a misappropriation of sorts. My dilemma between being ‘present’ for my child for the most part and having to forego several academic pursuits in graduate school was vexing. Since then, my daughter has grown, but, I remain as vexed as ever, wondering how to be a persevering scholar without withdrawing from my parental duties. 

Parenting with a partner or, parenting by oneself is challenging work. Added to this mix is the fact that as a first generation American immigrant, the possibility of having family or an extended family to help is nonexistent. When any access to informal childcare support is unavailable, one is wholly reliable on formal sources of childcare support. In the context of academia, these formal sources include childcare provided on-site at the university/college campus or off-site by private providers. But, what happens when part of your work occurs in a third exclusive space without access to either of these childcare infrastructures?

When I attended my very first academic conference in 2014, I remember looking around, trying to gauge the feasibility of bringing my two year old daughter to the conference; only to realize that, student parents and caregivers were not ‘formally’ or ‘visibly’ represented at the conference, leaving me wondering if bringing along a child or talking about childcare at public administration conferences was not an openly acceptable practice? As the semesters went by and I attended more conferences, I was always on the look out for other student parents like myself and often found a few engaged in private discussions around their encounters of making costly child care and travel arrangements for the conference duration. It got me thinking about why senior scholars in the field, faculty members and conference organizers were not openly embracing their roles as parents and caregivers? Why were conference attendees expected to keep their personal caregiving responsibilities isolated from conference spaces? Was being a caregiver detrimental to one’s academic image?

Being a parent and caregiver is a valid identity. Public administration conferences have recently created professional spaces in the form of conference sections, workshops, networking events, professional development opportunities for participant’s to explore their identities of race, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, immigration status and educational attainment. In a similar vein, it is time for conference organizers to create spaces for attendees to explore identities as parents and caregivers. By creating these spaces, conference organizers are recognizing the important intersection between academic identities and care giving responsibilities. Encouraging formal visibility and representation of caregivers in academic conferences is the first step in creating a professional space for supporting the unique set of needs and challenges faced by caregivers in academia. 

Public Administration conferences should plan for and create bold visibility for care giver attendees, allowing them to bring their children on-site and, discuss their caregiving challenges in public forums (including conference panels/roundtables), network with other caregivers and constantly brainstorm at conference workshops. Acknowledging the caregiving identity of conference goers is a first step in creating both symbolic and active representation of student/faculty/practitioner caregivers at academic conferences. This representation is necessary to give voice to previously unspoken challenges of an underrepresented academic demographic.  

Dr. Shilpa Viswanath is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. And, faculty affiliate at the University of Wisconsin - Madison’s Center for South Asia. Her research and teaching engage in themes of gender and social equity; labor unions and local governments, and, are rooted in her identities of being an immigrant in the United States, a faculty woman of color and a mother. She presently serves on the executive board of American Society for Public Administration’s Section for Women in Public Administration and, on the board of the Section for International and Comparative Administration. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

The Value of Informal Childcare
by Jamie Levine Daniel, IUPUI

Palmer House, Chicago, November, 2015. I am attending the annual meeting for the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA).  My family is with me. The twist: My husband is recovering from knee surgery. My 14-month-old child has recently figured out walking. We manage our drive from Indianapolis to Chicago, and arrive with minutes to spare before the session I am supposed to chair.

Given my husband’s temporarily limited mobility, he is pretty much stuck in our room.  Given my child’s recently improved mobility, all they want is to get out of the room. The next two days become a blur of sessions, presentations, and childcare. One hour I am talking about the relationship between nonprofit mission and earned revenue.  The next hour I am pushing a stroller in Millennium Park, hoping my child will take the nap they so desperately need.

Friday morning, I am able to meet with a fellow assistant professor with whom I had been hoping to collaborate.  We find a couch on the mezzanine level and start to chat. Or, at least, we try to chat, but I have to constantly chase after the toddler who wants nothing more than to pull down the holiday decorations tucked into all of the alcoves.  Suddenly, one of my more senior colleagues swoops in, picks up my child, puts them in the stroller, grabs the diaper bag, and says, “We’ll be back in half an hour.”

That break gave me the time I needed to focus on the business at hand. The person with whom I was meeting was Dr. Rachel Fyall. That meeting led to the first of the three articles Rachel and I have now co-authored. The senior colleague was Dr. Suzann Lupton, whose spontaneous generosity created much-needed space for intellectual exchange. 

Childcare has been a hot topic lately, coming up at and among leadership for ARNOVA, Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), and many other associations.  Many of these conversations center around formal mechanisms for easing burdens: drop in rooms, dependent care scholarships, amenities for nursing parents. These amenities would help address some barriers that childcare presents, but take time, effort, and money to implement and institutionalize. 

One thing we tried at ARNOVA 2019 was an informal network of people willing to help with last-minute childcare.  We put a call out on Twitter to ask for volunteers, compiled a list of availability, and put out announcements letting people know that volunteers were on hand should they need emergency/last-minute coverage.  The idea was inspired by my own experiences, when help I did not know I needed came unasked. The effort was low-key: social media and a Google form.

These types of efforts could be even more low-key, done on an individual level. If you know of someone bringing a child, and you are comfortable offering help, reach out before they even ask. If you are a session chair, reach out to the presenters and let them know if children are welcome in your panel.  Even if no one takes you up on your offers, sending these types of signals can help shift the culture of an association and lead to more systematic, formal changes at the scale needed to take on these challenges.

Dr. Jamie Levine Daniel is an assistant professor at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. Her research focuses on the relationship between nonprofit resource acquisition and program service delivery, with particular interest on the relationship between earned revenue and mission.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

A Call for Feedback on Conferencing with Children
by Kendra B. Stewart, College of Charleston

One of my fondest recent conference experiences was sitting next to Paul Danczyk at an ASPA plenary session while his two young children played quietly on the floor in front of us.  If you had told me 15 years ago when I was bringing my young children to public administration conferences that in the near future I would be sitting next to an ASPA Vice President as he modeled good parenting and partnering in a general session I would not have believed it.  I was so pleased that Paul was sending a message that even though childcare was not an option at the conference, bringing your children still is an option.  

There was a time when I first began conferencing (I choose not to say how long ago that was) when childcare was periodically offered at conferences.  Particularly academic conferences. I never used this option because I was fortunate to have a partner who usually was able and willing to travel with me so our children could come and I could do the things I needed to do (like nurse and kiss my children goodnight) while working.  This practice seems to have gone by the wayside and mostly, from what I can tell, it is because of underutilization. However, I am certain that organizations like ASPA would be willing to bring this back if they thought it would be used.  

With record numbers of women in the workforce, there is no doubt that we need to rethink what we are doing in terms of allowing more work/life balance into our professional meetings – for both women AND men.  Conferencing with your children can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be stressful if there is not good support. I recall one conference with my then 5-year-old son when I had to bring him to a panel I was on because there was no other option.  He was fairly well behaved, coloring in his books on a chair, until I began my presentation. At that point he stood up and announced that I was his mother and began waving. No one in the room was amused, except for one of my co-panelists. I was mortified.  We need to be sure that our working parents with young children have the opportunity to participate in and enjoy our conference experiences while still tending to their families if they choose to bring them.  

So, I pose the question to you all – our next generation of scholars and practitioners – what can we do to offer you the support you need if you choose to bring your children to a conference?  Is the traditional childcare model of interest? Or do you have another idea that could prove more successful? How do we send a message that we are family-friendly and that you don’t have to choose between tending to your career OR tending to your children?  All ideas are welcome and I am listening!

Kendra B. Stewart is Professor of Political Science and Public Administration and Director of the Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston.  Her research interests include South Carolina government, non-profit management, state and local government, food policy, and women and politics. She is co-editor of a book entitled The Practice of Government Public Relations.  The articles she has authored have appeared in various journals including Urban Affairs Review, Public Finance and Management, Perspective in Politics, Journal of Public Affairs Education, Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition as well as in various scholarly books.  

Dr. Stewart is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization chartered by Congress to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations.  She was also elected to serve as President of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) for 2020-2021. Dr. Stewart has conducted political analysis for a variety of print, radio and television media, including Good Morning America, Fox News Channel, the Associated Press, The New Yorker, and National Public Radio.  

Dr. Stewart received her undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida and her Master of Public Administration and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of South Carolina.  Prior to her current position, Dr. Stewart was a faculty member at Eastern Kentucky University and worked for the state of South Carolina Budget and Control Board. In addition, she has conducted program evaluations and strategic planning assistance to a variety of public and nonprofit organizations.  Dr. Stewart is very involved in the community as well, serving on the boards of several professional and non-profit organizations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Assessing the Challenges and Barriers to Conference Participation
by Layla Alanazi,
Virginia Common Wealth University

As a mother of an infant and a toddler, a wife, and a Ph.D. student, I took the decision to take my children with me in all of the conferences which I plan to attend. My husband has been of great help to me as he babysits with them at the hotel where we are staying while I present, participant, and enjoy the conferences. While we both as a couple started our family as graduate students and we both have the same career bath, things do not always seem easy as it sounds. 

For me as a mother, planning to attend a conference while having young children is a challenge in many ways. First, there is no space or childcare accommodation in any of the conferences that I have been to except a few that provide nursing or breastfeeding rooms for mothers. Second, the financial difficulties that we undergo to go as a family to attend a conference is always a serious issue. Examples of these costs include purchasing air tickets, providing appropriate accommodations for a family, and childcare Third, I have to lose many conference opportunities or try other ways like coauthoring as a way to opt-out from presenting at conferences to meet my motherhood responsibilities. 

Attending and participating in conferences for a mother like me with young children sometimes feels like a burden. Not a burden in terms of money, but always in terms of time and the expectations for research, work, and the various school duties. While I do not believe it is a healthy thing for our family or others with the same situations to exceed those expectations, the culture of academia needs to change towards mothers with children. At the school level, there must some kind of policies granting incentives for women scholars with children to participate in conferences, most notably graduate students. Examples of those incentives can include reimbursing the student to cover for travel or childcare incurred costs. At the conference level, logistics should not impede the full participation of parents with children. These logistics can include arrangements, such as providing an affordable childcare zone, planning family-friendly activities, allocating nursing rooms for mothers, and organizing special receptions for families traveling with children. 

At the macro level, School policies need to be set fairly to save families in terms of providing an appropriate maternal leave, financial support, and accommodations, so that no student-regardless of his or her gender-is left behind. While no study shows how many women opt out of graduate school to meet their motherhood responsibilities, the current structure of academia has unfairly empowered men and childless women, and participate in systematically marginalizing women and their dependents. To better provide a healthy, non-toxic, and non-stressful School environment for mothers with young children, policymakers need to answer urgent questions: what policies have been made to address this challenge, and what steps have been taken to help remove the barriers to conference participation for this group? 

Layla is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy and Administration program at the Wilder School of Government & Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.  She holds a master’s degree in Global Human Resources Management from the Management School at the University of Liverpool. Also, she holds another master’s degree in Industrial Relations and Human Resources from the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. Her research interests include human resources management, organizational behavior, performance management, and public management.

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Closing Thoughts on Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects Jamie Levine Daniel and Shilpa Viswanath We initiate...