There was a moment not long ago when a big story broke about a new company CEO.

An internal debate ensued: Should we mention a certain personal aspect about this new top exec of a very large long-term care provider? Was it really important? Was it important enough to mention in the headline or the first sentence?

In what will be a surprise to some, the topic was whether we mentioned how relatively young she was. Not the fact that it was a she at all. After all, we would hope our readers wouldn’t read the breaking news story and think, “Gadzooks, a LADY at the helm?!”

But while long-term care has made strides toward getting the right person for the right job, regardless of gender, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

I’ll admit I was firmly in the camp of assuming, in a profession with so many women, that there wasn’t a problem. But when you take a look at the lists of top honorees in some of the most distinguished awards categories in the profession, the percentage of females brings one phrase to mind: surprisingly low.

This is not to suggest any skullduggery on anyone’s part, or that I’m selling my own gender down the river. (Female Editor’s Note: Oh, why not?) It’s simply to point out why the McKnight’s Women of Distinction honors program is such a great idea, at a great time.

Since we unveiled the program in mid-December and opened the nominating process, the response has been powerful and incredibly heartening. “We’ve already had amazing applicants with a long list of accomplishments,” a colleague confided Tuesday. I’ve been heartened to see how this long overdue program found a warm and welcome spot in all of senior care’s consciousness. Many of the nominators confided, in personal terms, both what the nominee has meant to them professionally or what she has overcome.

So this column is not one of those all-too-familiar “drum up the nominations” rally pieces. But chances are, there’s still someone in your professional realm who should be nominated. We are confident the two inaugural classes will provide inspiration to our readers.

I say “classes” because there are two divisions that women leaders will be recognized in. Odds are overwhelming that you know colleagues worthy of being in one or the other, or both.

The “Hall of Honor” is for top execs, at the vice president or equivalent level or higher. They might be the boss onsite, or a big, big boss or exec who works at another site. Or a colleague you used to work with. Or it could be you.

The second division, which also will enshrine a class of inductees, is the “Rising Stars.” Everyone and anyone in this business comes into contact with these, possibly on a daily basis. If you’re a “Rising Star,” we’re going to look for you in the Hall of Honor some day. You’re off to a good start.

There’s still until Friday Jan. 18 to nominate someone in either division for free. The fee has been waived until that date.

Plus, if that timeframe doesn’t work for you, in another streak of forthrightness, we’re telling you right now we’ll keep nominations open until Jan. 31 — but it will cost $25 per entry after Jan. 18. Don’t let $25 get between you and your colleagues from nominating that deserving person you admire. At the same time, it’s exactly what it says it is: A late fee.

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program already is a success, I am proud to report.

The only question now is who will be the proud faces, smiling in that first “hall of fame” class picture? It’s still in your hands.

Stay tuned: We’ll update you further about progress and plans after nominations close in about three weeks.

Create a simple account to register details of any desired Hall of Honor and “Rising Star” candidates by going here. Good luck!

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.