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Robust maternity leave policies can significantly increase the representation of women in leadership, encouraging more working mothers to advance their careers. But research says that half of new moms don’t return to work because their employers don’t offer the flexibility necessary to balance work and life.

In fact, many working mothers in the U.S. don’t even get the chance to excel in their careers because paid leave is still an option that many industries refuse to take. In 2016, 33% of women working in finance had access to paid maternity leave compared to 14% of civilian workers who even qualified and an alarming 5% of construction working women who had options available to them.

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This disparity forces women to choose between their families and careers, ultimately giving them no choice but to step back from the latter. But Alicia Tillman, the Chief Marketing Officer of SAP, understands the first-hand benefits of being a working mother in leadership and as a mother of two herself, won’t let top female talent go to waste. “The more diversity we can have and the more we can create environments where women can come back to work and thrive after they’ve had a child, that’s where you’ll really get success from companies after all,” she shared in a recent video for Vox

With a family to look after and a team of 1,700 employees to lead, Tillman says she’s able to empathize with her employees and tackle multiple projects at a time because of the special care and attention she practices everyday as a mother.

And Tillman’s far from the only working mother in leadership experiencing success at the company. Head of APJ Pre-Sales, Peggy Renders, also says she became a better leader when she became a mother. As a single parent, her “perfect work-life integration” is what stands out to her most about working at the Fortune 500 company. And like many other parents, she says “[my children are] heavily dependent on me; boys love their moms, so I want to make sure I’m there with them, enjoying life with them. The flexibility I get at SAP is really key to making my life work.”

Maggie Buggie, the Global Head of Innovation Services and Solutions, was similarly able to strike a work-life balance at SAP with their support. Shortly after having her second child, she actually left her comfortable career to join SAP in 2017 because the generous representation of women across leadership positions — specifically the company’s board — was “simply irresistible.” 

“I fundamentally would not work for an organization without females on the board,” she said. “That was a big part of my motivation. I believe I need to play a big part in attracting top female talent to our company, so SAP becomes the most diverse organization.”

 “When we can have more moms in leadership positions, that’s really where you allow and enable everyone to reach the full potential that they have,” Tillman says — “and then you create a culture that appreciates it.”

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