SAP Canada is launching a benefits platform to help guide employees who identify as women through their motherhood journey.

Launched last month, the platform is available to women who’re expecting, including via birth, adoption and/or surrogacy. It’s designed to support female employees expecting children, from having/welcoming a baby to taking maternity leave to returning to work.

The platform, called Maturn, provides online learning modules that are timed based on the stage of a maternity journey. It also includes monthly guest experts and group coaching sessions, as well as an online community in which employees can connect with others — from within SAP or external member organizations — who’ve either been through the motherhood journey or are going through it at the same time.

Read: Canadian employers failing mothers returning from parental leave: report

“The process of becoming a mom, taking a leave and then thinking about returning to work can be isolating and it would help if mothers had feedback from others on how they approached these stages and what they experienced,” says Megan Smith, SAP Canada’s vice-president and head of human resources.

The various stages of maternity leave can be overwhelming for mothers, as there are myriad considerations for them to process, she says, such as how to broach the conversation around taking maternity leave with their managers, postpartum changes and identity shifts, childcare planning, how to approach a re-entry to paid work, as well as how to create an equal partnership plan with a spouse or partner.

The module on creating an equitable partnership plan also includes information on how important it is for employers to promote maternity leave for women employees’ partners or spouses, says Smith. She notes the organization’s support for its employees’ growing families also includes a maternity leave top-up and paid family leave for non-birth parents.

Smith is hopeful the platform will help women feel better prepared to invest in their careers alongside motherhood, if they choose, and thus ultimately help combat what’s been dubbed the “she-cession.” She says her own journey as a mother of two young children has opened her eyes to how much of a massive investment — physically, financially and emotionally — motherhood can be.

Read: More Canadian employers topping up maternity leave benefits than parental leave benefits: survey

“You’re expected to maintain this investment, which is basically like another job, as you re-enter back into your career. It’s shocking as a society, given the focus on the economic benefits of women in leadership roles and employers’ sense of wanting to have really diverse and inclusive workforces, that we haven’t thought more about how we could better support, or provide any support, [to women] beyond just allowing them to take a leave from work.”

Although Smith acknowledges that everybody’s experience is different, she says a common thread for many mothers who are preparing to return to work after taking maternity leave is that they all have to consider the feasibility of childcare, as well as weighing the amount of stress and work they’re able to juggle after welcoming a child to their family. While there’s a combination of factors that go into gender issues in the workplace, one is that some women are choosing to opt out of paid work due to the struggle of trying to juggle motherhood and a career, she adds.

“The more we help mothers go into the maternity process feeling confident and planning in advance for their return to work, the more likely that mother will return . . . feeling energetic and confident to go for the roles in which she can have the greatest strategic impact and that directly benefits the organization.”

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