There's A Meeting for That

The NotMom Summit

Inside a meeting inspired by women who, for whatever reason, have decided not to have children.

Illustration by Carmen Segovia.

One in five women in developed countries will never give birth, a statistic that resonated with Karen Malone Wright. In 2011, Malone Wright started a blog about being childless by either chance (her situation) or choice, which “really started to click with women around the world,” she said. When she entered her blog project in a competition for entrepreneurial women, she was awarded second place.

That encouraged her to step up her online efforts and develop a business plan — including a conference, although that was earmarked for eight years down the road. But then “it just sort of became an ‘if not now, when?’ kind of thing,” she said, and The NotMom Summit launched five years early.

STAGES OF DEVELOPMENTHaving spent her career in communications and public relations, Malone Wright wasn’t intimidated by the logistics of putting together the inaugural NotMom Summit. But she’d underestimated the challenge of attracting sponsors. Her pitch — that this was an underserved consumer audience with “tons of discretionary income”— was difficult to substantiate without any data on attendees. After all, this was the first event of its kind.

But that won’t be the case next year. Malone Wright and her assistant are “working like squirrels” to crunch the data they collected from attendees, who traveled from as far away as England, China, and Iceland. “That demonstrated to me,” she said, “that these women have been looking for each other online and they would jump at the chance to connect offline.”

GOOD VIBRATIONSOne takeaway Malone Wright heard from attendees was that the conference exceeded their expectations, as did Cleveland. “They were greatly impressed by the city itself,” she said, ”so that made me feel good.” Another feel-good outcome was the ethnic, racial, and age diversity of attendees. But Malone Wright was most pleased with how the summit helped bridge a divide between childless women. “In our follow-up survey,” she said, “we asked: ‘If you are childless by chance, did you better understand the women who are child-free by choice?’ And vice versa. Overwhelmingly, the answer was yes.”

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.