Think About It: OIWC asks why is there no childcare at Outdoor Retailer trade shows?

Kristin Carpenter-Ogden has a dilemma. As a working mom running a business in Durango, Colo., her schedule is jam-packed. Add a well traveled, professional rock climber/photographer husband and a lack of relatives living locally into the mix, and she comes up with a definite childcare challenge. Especially when traveling to the Outdoor Retailer trade shows. How does she deal with it all?
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Kristin Carpenter-Ogden has a dilemma. As a working mom running a business in Durango, Colo., her schedule is jam-packed. Add a well traveled, professional rock climber/photographer husband and a lack of relatives living locally into the mix, and she comes up with a definite childcare challenge. Especially when traveling to the Outdoor Retailer trade shows. How does she deal with it all?

"It's pretty funny that you should ask me that right now," the founder/owner of Verde public relations and consulting services (and the mother of a 5- and 2-year-old) said. "In the past, I have flown my aunt into Salt Lake to help out. But I am gone from 6:30 a.m. until 10 at night, and at the last show, she said, 'This is just not something I can do anymore.'"

Luckily, Carpenter's husband will be home during the upcoming Winter Market; the summer show, she noted, will present itself as a problem, however. "I have to do something for summer OR," she said. "We absolutely have to get childcare there."

What is a child-toting, busy mom -- or dad -- to do when working equates to traveling? This question prevails in today's society, where a whopping 70 percent of women with kids under 18 currently work outside the home, along with 83 percent of the fathers, according to an ABC News poll. More often than not, it is both parents (six out of 10 married couples) that belong to the workforce.

As any working parent knows, an arsenal of day-care providers and babysitters is the key to time-management success. "There is no question that access to high-quality day care increases efficiency and effectiveness for any parent, not just for moms," said Sally Grimes, director of the Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition (OIWC). "If you know your child is in safe hands, you are able to focus on your work and perform at a much higher level."

Many outdoor industry moms agree that childcare offered at the Outdoor Retailer trade shows would satisfy a growing need. Several years ago, the show did contract with an outside vendor to provide day care. "When we had the childcare, we had the rule that no children were allowed on the show floor," said Kenji Haroutunian, Outdoor Retailer's show director. "That was a source of pain. People wanted to keep their kids in a carrier or stroller, but we didn't allow it because of safety and strollers blocking a walkway. We changed it to allow kids at the show once we didn't have the day care."

Is this the solution? It's hard to imagine it would be easy to juggle your show appointments with the needs of your half-pint. "While being able to bring kids on the show floor is a benefit, any parent who has done this knows that your productivity is cut in half since you are constantly balancing taking care of your child with performing your job," Grimes said.

Many industry parents agree that they would love to see the startup of quality day care offered at the show, a valuable feature that is offered at many other trade shows across the country. "Our industry could definitely be more proactive with this," Carpenter-Ogden said. "If it were reputable and right onsite, it would be great. I could go have lunch with (my kids) or visit them throughout the day."

In addition, other moms have voiced the desire for discreet pumping stations for nursing purposes. Haroutunian said this show feature already exists. "It has really no official policy, but we have worked with several moms at the show that need pumping space," he said. "We have a room, and they have a private space that has power and a restroom facility." Nursing mothers interested in this option can call Outdoor Retailer's office (949-226-5722) for further information.

As for day care, Haroutunian said it is not out of the question for future shows. "We contracted with an outside vendor before and gave them the space, which is now the show office. As the Salt Palace got more packed and fewer and fewer people seemed to need it, it was (discontinued)," he said. "But if there was enough of a call for it, it's not out of the question at all. The question for us is, 'Where would we do it?'"

A designated space and a topnotch care provider would get the ball rolling. Certainly, a sponsor for this space and service would be a huge boon to outdoor parents.

"Overall, providing day care and a pumping/nursing room at the trade show would increase the productiveness of moms (and dads), benefiting the individuals and companies in the outdoor industry," Grimes said. "It would also open up the show to many new moms who simply choose not to attend since there is no support system in place. The outdoor industry could do a much better job of supporting its working parents."

This new monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most -- anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at oiwc@snewsnet.com.

Erinn Morgan is an award-winning magazine editor, whose work -- which focuses on outdoor sports, adventure travel, gear and sustainability -- has appeared in magazines from National Geographic Adventure and Outside to Bike and Skiing.

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