Editor's note: This column has been updated to provide attribution to original sources.
Meghann Foye described the jealousy that she felt when colleagues at her magazine job would "slip out of work at 6 P.M." to go home to their families while she toiled ten-hour days. "It seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility," she says in an interview with the New York Post. "There's something about saying 'I need to go pick up my child' as a reason to leave the office on time that has far more gravitas than, say, 'My best friend just got ghosted by her OkCupid date and needs a margarita'--but both sides are valid."
Foye believes that while men and women would both benefit from a "meternity" leave, the concept would be especially advantageous for women. "Burnout syndrome is well-documented in both sexes," she says in the New York Post, "But recent research suggests that women may experience it at greater rates; researchers postulate that it's because women (moms and non-moms alike) feel overloaded by the roles they have to take on at work and at home."
Women who enter a career in STEM demonstrate an incredibly high attrition rate: Fifty-six percent of technical women leave tech companies within 10 year, more than double the dropout rate for men. In the tech industry in particular, giving female employees an extended break from work may be one way to keep women from leaving the industry altogether.
If women are experiencing burnout at greater rates than men, it's possible that a "meternity" leave can give women the time to reflect on work-life balance. "I learned that any pressure I felt to stay late at the office wasn't coming from the parents on staff," Foye said to the New York Post, "It was coming from myself. Coming back to a new position, I realized I didn't need an 'excuse' to leave on time. And that's what I would love the take-away for my book to be: Work-life balance is tough for everyone, and it happens most when parents and nonparents support and don't judge each other."
Another reason for companies to offer paid leave or flex-time to all employees (and not just new mothers) is that maternity leave discriminates against employees based on parental status. If a company pays employees that same wages for the same work, but offers one class of employees time off as a job benefit that is not available to another class of employees, then employees aren't being paid equally. Even though parental status is not a protected class, some scholars have argued it should be. Most anti-discrimination laws are implemented as reflections of a society's moral views, rather than as mechanisms to correct for market distortion. It should follow then that if employees shouldn't be discriminated against on the basis of their parental status, that they shouldn't receive preferential treatment for it, either.