OPINION Jacksonville Journal-Courier, Ill.
You've come a long way ... maybe.
Although the proverbial glass ceiling keeping women from rising to the top has been raised a few feet over the years, there remains a lot of distance to go.
The United States has actually back-tracked on its progression, going from number 22 among the nations of the world last year to number 23 this year, according to the Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum.
That puts us behind a list of nations including Iceland, the United Kingdom, Germany -- even Burundi.
Since 2011, the United States has fallen from number 17 on the list, which measures such things as educational attainment, political empowerment and economic opportunity.
In wage equality, the nation plummets to 67. On average, women still make just 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.
Why is this important?
As researchers at Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley who compiled the report explain, "Countries and companies can be competitive only if they develop, attract and retain the best talent, both male and female. While governments have an important role to play in creating the right policy framework for improving women's access and opportunities, it is also the imperative of companies to create workplaces where the best talent can flourish. Civil society, educators and media also have an important role to play in both empowering women and engaging men in the process."
Illinois, on the bright side, is faring better than most states, especially in political representation and life expectancy.
But the state, which is 14th overall in the nation, still has a lot of work ahead in educational attainment and executive positions being held by women.
WalletHub conducted its own analysis of the findings and put Hawaii at the top of the list and Wyoming at the bottom in gender-based equality.
Midwestern and Central Southern states tended to be at the bottom of the list with more frequency -- even neighboring states such as Missouri (19th), Kentucky (24) and Indiana (46) lagged behind.
These are not issues just for Illinois.
The Center for American Progress indicates that women make up 52 percent of the professional job force but only 14.6 percent of executives -- 4.6 percent when looking solely at chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies.
Salary inequality is an endemic problem, too.
About two-thirds of the minimum wage workers in the nation are women, according to the National Women's Law Center. That results in an annual pay of $14,500, which is just barely above the federal poverty line of $11,670 for an individual.
According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, if change continues at its present rate -- the rate that has been set during the past 50 years -- it will take until 2058 to achieve pay equity among the sexes.
That's not acceptable.
We must continue chipping away at the glass ceiling, eschewing the perpetration of stereotypes -- sometimes called the "Barbie versus Superman" syndrome -- and recognize that the same opportunities and advantages should be available regardless of gender.