Some might think it unnecessary or perhaps even unfair to honor women for the exceptional work they do in this field. To that, I have a simple question: What rock have you been living under?

Not only is such recognition deserved, it’s long overdue. That’s one reason why I can’t wait for the 2024 McKnight’s Women of Distinction Awards banquet and ceremony, which take place Tuesday in Chicago.

Our three brands — McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Home Care — are thrilled to honor women across the skilled nursing, senior living and home care fields. These winners have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to their communities, facilities and agencies, all while making a significant impact on their organization and on the lives of the individuals they serve.  

In all, we will recognize 60 winners in five categories: Lifetime Achievement, Hall of Honor, Veteran VIPs, Rising Stars and the Spirit Award.

To be sure, it is going to be a night of celebration, mirth and merriment. It will also try to do something that needs to be done: help level the playing field.

All too often, women in this sector literally do the heavy lifting, without much to show for it but the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.

Not that women getting the proverbial short end of the stick is a reality that’s unique to this field. For every dollar a man is paid, a woman doing the same work in the US earns 84 cents, according to AAUW.

Women also tend to be overlooked for advancement opportunities, because, well, somebody has to have the babies. This penalty is so baked into our work culture that few seem to consider the unfairness of it all. Or at least, few of the men in charge.

All things considered, this may be the best time to be a woman in the history of, ahem, mankind. But it’s still pretty unfair. For as Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner observe in their book “Superfreakonomics”:

“Women have finally overtaken men in life expectancy, thanks mainly to medical improvements surrounding childbirth. In many countries, however, being female remains a serious handicap even in the 21st century. Young women in Cameroon have their breasts ‘ironed’ — beaten or massaged by a wooden prestle or a heated coconut shell – to make them less sexually tempting. In China, foot binding has finally been done away with, but females are still far more likely than males to be abandoned after birth, to be illiterate, and to commit suicide. And women in rural India [continue] to face discrimination in just about every direction.”

And don’t get me started about the lovely things the Taliban is doing to women in Afghanistan these days.

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction ceremony is hardly going to make things right, or even equal.

But it’s a start.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s.

Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.