This year’s Q2B conference had many exciting announcements. One of these announcements was the launching of a Quantum Childcare Pilot Program on January 1, 2022. This pilot program resulted from a collaboration between the Dutch quantum umbrella organization Quantum Delta NL, and Women In Quantum Development (WIQD) a Dutch network for quantum technology lovers. This pilot program was designed to help women overcome the hardship of childcare while working. According to WIQD’s cofounder Dr. Stacey Jeffrey: “My mother did her bachelor’s and master’s degrees while raising my brother and I as a single parent, so I have always been cognizant of the difficulty of making everything work with kids (even though my mother usually made it look easy).” Jeffrey found that many of her female colleagues had similar issues, and decided to partner with Quantum Delta NL to try to get this pilot program off the ground.
Addressing these challenges would be tricky, as Jeffrey soon found out. “It’s often infeasible or just undesirable to arrange local childcare if you need to bring a nursing baby to a conference in another country,” Jeffrey explained. “When possible, many women would much rather bring a family member to care for the child. If a single parent living away from her country of origin (as so many scientists do) wants to leave her school-aged child at home while she attends a conference abroad, the easiest solution might be to fly a family member from her country of origin to look after the child.” But Jeffrey didn’t want to start an organization that just gave plane tickets to women. “Even if I had wanted to lobby a funding organization to make a policy of funding childcare arrangements when parents travel, I wouldn’t know what specifically I would be asking for,” she added. “The Quantum Childcare Pilot Program is about asking this question.”
In pairing with Quantum Delta NL, WIQD decided to make the pilot program open-ended, asking the women of the quantum computing community how they personally would use financial support to cover the cost of childcare while traveling. The program offers 20 personal grants throughout 2022 and is designated for women specifically working in the Netherlands. The process for applying is relatively simple. According to Jeffrey: “After the end of each calendar month, we will choose one or two proposals to fund. While we may not be able to fund all proposals this year, each one will help us to learn more about how different women approach the problem of childcare, which will help build up more of a comprehensive program in the future.” This pilot program not only helps to benefit Dutch women in quantum computing but can help the entire quantum computing community as it will encourage more diversity and inclusivity in quantum computing experts and enthusiasts.
While this program is specifically targeted at the Netherlands, the goal is to expand it to other European countries after learning from the pilot program. “There is a lot of talk about women in STEM right now,” Jeffrey said. “But there is much less actual meaningful action being taken to address the real practical problems faced by women trying to pursue a career. Childcare funding for work travel is by no means the only such problem, but it is one where we know at least part of the solution: money. The idea behind the Quantum Childcare Pilot Program is to figure out the rest of the equation.”