Security at Mobile World Congress is notoriously tough to get through -- they require passports, pre-registration and several checkpoints. This is in part because the show is massive and theft is common, as are people trying to sneak in without paying. This year's show was no different -- in fact, security was so tough a suspiciously adorable five-month old baby was denied entrance with her breastfeeding mother.
According to Francisco Hernandez Marcos, who blogged about the incident (in Spanish), his wife was denied entrance to MWC because she wanted to bring in her un-credentialed five-month old to keep her close by for breastfeeding.
Hernandez Marcos, who later met his wife outside the show to take the baby while she went in, was then asked to leave a bench outside the Fira despite the fact that it was in a public space and he did actually have MWC credentials.
We know that MWC is a money-making machine for the GSM Association (GSMA) , so they were likely reluctant to let in a non-paying attendee of any age, but is this a women's rights issue or more simply a failure to think outside the box? (See MWC's Millions: Hot-for-Profit in Barcelona.)
GSMA rep Claire Cranton writes in a email to WiC that they are still investigating the issue, but extend sincere apologies to the family. The organization runs a Mobile Explorers Club with programs for children age 8 to 15 that may need to attend MWC with their parents and can also refer attendees to additional childcare services outside of the Club age range or hours of service. Cranton also points out that the Fira has a lactation room available for nursing mothers.
"While Mobile World Congress is a business event, we on occasion do allow children under the age of 16 to attend, provided that they are accompanied by an adult who would be responsible for them and who possesses a valid MWC pass," Cranton says. "Families would need to contact us in advance to make such arrangements and we would provide a signed letter that they would use to access the venue and carry with them inside the venue."
This is only something the GSMA does in exceptional circumstances and when done in advance. Hernandez Marcos did not make such a request, she says.
To me, the idea of bringing an infant to any trade show, let alone one as huge, over-stimulating and germ-infested as MWC, is a bit crazy. (Although, we have to start interest in STEM early, right?!) I would rather work for an employer understanding enough to let me sit out this year's show if breastfeeding were a priority that inhibited me from going.
That said, not letting a baby in is a bit silly as well. It's not likely to become a trend and could've generated great press for the GSMA rather than a situation they need to investigate and manage.
As I mentioned, the MWC security staff isn't exactly known for rule-bending. I've had trouble getting past security before and have had colleagues denied passes for all manner of silly reasons (as blogger David Benjamin also describes here). I imagine -- or hope -- that the situation would've been handled differently if someone with authority to waive the pre-reg requirement were involved.
This whole work-life balance thing means different things to different people, and it requires a little flexibility from everyone involved.
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading