Statement on Membership Engagement, Conference Sites and Hybrid Models

The Executive Board prioritizes outstanding engagement of the network on vital issues linked to the work-family interface. This means keeping conferences enriching, engaging, and accessible to its membership. The priorities outlined here also underscore our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

At this time, WFRN’s approach to “hybrid” models is to provide two distinct types of innovative, engaging conferences, 1) a creative Virtual Conference Series across the year, alongside 2) a dynamic biennial in-person conference.

  1. The Virtual Conference Series (VCS). An important goal of our organization is to maintain a timely, accessible and inclusive online engagement through our VCS. The VCS provides members the opportunity to connect with other WFRN scholars and leaders around the world in an accessible and convenient format. For the sake of equity and inclusion, we attempt to vary time-zone friendliness given that members are located in North America, Western Europe, as well as other locations around the globe. Each year we program a main “plenary” type event as well as a few other key events envisioned by members, networking communities, and the Executive Board. Notably, some sessions in the VCS are open to non-members, increasing the impact of WFRN’s research and analysis.
  2. The Biennial Conference. A twin priority of WFRN is creating dynamic in-person conferences to maintain and enhance the social networks and engagement of our WFRN community. WFRN is committed to holding an in-person conference every two years, typically in June. This event provides forms of engagement that allow for deep conversations and collaborations as well as different forms of networking opportunities not easily available online.

Key questions about priorities for in-person conferences involve the city and the type of venue. To select locales, the WFRN prioritizes host sites/locales having positive records with respect to diversity/inclusion, fair labor practices, environmental practices, and sensitivity to concerns that are central to work-family inquiry and practice. This includes selecting host venues located in states or provinces that are supportive of family-friendly policies, abortion rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. Moreover, site selection will consider institutions that do not having ongoing or foreseeable labor disputes. The WFRN seeks to be sensitive to environmental concerns in its venue selections, including minimizing the need for additional connecting flights for those traveling from abroad and minimizing travel demands for all members as a collectivity. The WFRN also periodically surveys its members about potential locales for upcoming conferences. Importantly, the WFRN is committed to maximizing the connection of conference goers to policy makers and policy issues within the locale, and to ensuring WFRN “gives back” to the host city or area where possible.

When selecting conference venues, the WFRN seeks to maximize event quality and minimize overhead costs. Recognizing that hotel conference venues tend to be expensive, and carry greater risk to the organization, the WFRN is planning for future conferences to be at university centers in North America. We anticipate that these venues will require significantly lower overhead costs while simultaneously provide more meeting space, better receptions, and enhanced audio-visual resources. University centers will also provide lower-cost housing options that may be especially helpful to students and members with fewer resources.

We are committed to providing supports to scholars and leaders who most need additional resources for participation and engagement with WFRN. The WFRN regularly provides registration and membership discounts to economically-disadvantaged individuals, including students and early career scholars. Additionally, recognizing the difficulty of travel from more distant locales and the costs involved, the WFRN commonly provides discounted or waived conference registration fees to those coming to our in-person conferences from the global south.  Through member donations, the WFRN is able to provide a limited number of fully-funded membership/registration grants. Owing to resource limitations, the WFRN generally cannot provide hotel or other travel support, but when support is possible, the needs and interests of economically-disadvantaged members are prioritized.

We are committed to listening to our membership, and to regularly re-evaluating our approach to member engagement through online and in-person conferences as technologies and the conference environments continue to evolve.

September 2022