Last week’s annual TEDWomen conference in San Francisco was, as always, a celebration of working women and girls. Alas, not all working women. Nursing moms — no matter how powerful, successful and inspirational they are — are not welcome unless they leave their babies at home.
To be fair to TED, they’ve had a longstanding “adults only” (14 years-plus) policy, based on their emphasis on experiences that are free from distractions. Electronic devices and babies are also banned from the main theater to let attendees focus their undivided attention on the TED Talks delivered by notable thought leaders.
But still. It’s 2016. If TED is committed to supporting women and girls, shouldn’t they consider doing that from a young age? Say, from a few months old? That would be a really powerful statement to breastfeeding mothers who simply can’t attend events like this without having their infant in tow. Hell, these women should be invited to line up on the stage and get a standing ovation for even making it out of the house with a baby.
Like Liza Morris, who brought her 3-month-old daughter to TEDWomen this year. “When you have a baby this young, it’s not really a choice,” she said. She claimed she missed an email from TED reminding attendees about the no-baby policy, and found many fellow attendees on the first day of the conference to be extremely helpful and supportive.
However, on the second day of the three-day conference, Morris was approached by a TED employee and a security guard and promptly escorted out of the venue. Get ready for the irony: at the very time they were being removed, speakers were talking about babies (complete with flashing images) and lactation researcher Katie Hinde was addressing the emotional and psychological importance of breast milk.
After Morris and her daughter were kicked out, she was given the option of watching the TED Talks on a TV in the lactation room or a nearby hotel suite. She opted to spend the remainder of the day in the cramped, windowless lactation room — which she had to share with an upright piano.
TED is all about new thinking, right? So this is the perfect opportunity for them to work out ways to accommodate women who want to learn and work — all women. How about a spacious, comfortable, well-equipped area for nursing mothers (or mothers with infants, period) to take their babies to if they need to be fed or settled?