Childcare is the real glass ceiling. There are two key things that make this so. Firstly, men earn more than women in Ireland. The gender pay gap currently stands at 14% and, in some professions, that goes up to 30%.

Secondly, the cost of childcare is often described as a “second mortgage”. In some parts of the country, it costs as much as €308 a week for one child. So, when it comes to returning to work after having your child – faced with crèche fees versus your take-home pay each month – is it any wonder the job that brings in the lower salary, inevitably the woman’s, will be the one sacrificed when it comes to paying for childcare over doing it yourself?

How does all of this play out for women in society?

When it comes to the jobs around the house – the cooking, the cleaning, the school homework, the drop-offs, the pick-ups, remembering birthdays and planning the dinners, otherwise known as the “primary care work” – 70% of this is carried out by women, according to the 2016 TASC (Think-tank for Action on Social Change) report.

Women are working – they’re just not getting paid for it.

Women missing from positions of power

How does this ceiling of childcare play out for women, in a larger societal context, in terms of holding positions of influence? In business, women only make up 18.1% of directors of Irish-registered ISEQ20 companies. At CEO level, women lead about 10% of our companies.

In Dáil Éireann, only 22.2% of our TDs are women. There are 16 constituencies, some of which are entire counties, that do not have a woman as a TD. At local council level, 23% of the country’s councillors are women, up 2% on the 2014 elections.

In the media, all the editorships of our national newspapers are male. And in education, women make up 45% of all academic staff at our higher-level institutions, but men hold around 75% of the professorships and about two-thirds of the associate professorships. As for the role of Taoiseach; we’ve had 14 of those and, no, not a single one of them was a woman.

Equal parental leave

Childcare is the real glass ceiling and that is why Guinness’s news is so game changing. From July 1, the 26 weeks of paid parental leave will be offered to all Diageo employees in Ireland who become parents, regardless of gender or sexuality. It will also apply regardless of how people become parents – via birth, adoption or surrogacy.

Why is this such positive news?

As we reach full employment and companies start to struggle with recruitment and retention, this is a pivotal moment for workers’ rights that will encourage equal distribution of childcare between parents.

Now the woman, the person on the statistically lower salary, will no longer have to be the one to step out of the workforce, unless they so choose.

Also, the fact that a company as big as Diageo is making this move means other businesses will feel the peer pressure to follow suit.

Attractive parental package

Canadian company, Shopify, which has employees in Ireland, already has an attractive package in place for their staff who become parents. The e-commerce platform supports employees who are new mothers with maternity and parental leave top-up payments to 85% of salary for up to 34 weeks. It also offers parental top-up for fathers and adoptive parents to 85% of salary for up to 18 weeks.

All of this is happening against a political backdrop where fathers receive two weeks’ State pay on the birth of a child – a benefit that will increase to four weeks from November. The Government plans to continue extending this over the coming years. Equality isn’t just good PR, it’s actually good for business and for the creation of a stable, sustainable economy. Who doesn’t want that?