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TORII STATION, Okinawa — “You’ve come a long way, baby.” (But you still have a way to go.)

On Friday afternoon, Nancy Bresell, director of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific, told an audience that women have made great strides in the race for equality but still face significant challenges, particularly in the area of wages.

Bresell spoke to about 200 people at the Torii Station theater for the Army’s 10th Support Group’s observance of Women’s Equality Day. The day commemorates the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

“Our country was founded in contradiction. First, we had a declaration, a belief that all men are created equal, a declaration that catapulted America into a beacon of hope and prosperity for the world,” Bresell said. “Yet, some of the men who signed their names to this self-evident truth owned other individuals as property and treated women as second-class citizens who had no right to vote.”

Bresell told the audience that when she was a child, options for women weren’t as plentiful as they are today. They were funneled into teaching, nursing and secretarial professions.

Now, even though women have many more career field options, women’s wages still range from 70 percent to 75 percent of men’s, Bresell said, citing studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Government Accountability Office. Bresell also said only 11 percent of executive positions in the federal government are held by women.

Even in the field of education, a profession dominated numerically by women, men still claim most administrative positions, Bresell said.

Despite these figures, women have made great contributions to the country, she said.

Bresell noted several of those women, including Capt. Rosemary Hogan, who was held in a Japanese prison camp for three years in World War II after she refused to abandon wounded American soldiers in Bataan when the island was overrun.

“Women’s Equality Day is a great opportunity for us to pay tribute to the many courageous women who plowed the way,” she said. “The world is opening up for women in all areas of life, but it is up to us as women to reach out and take advantage of the opportunities.”

Army Col. Kenneth Lundgren, the commanding officer of 10th Support Group, said the presentation was educational.

“It makes people realize where we came from and helps them improve in the future,” he said.

Lundgren, who has served in the Army for 24 years, said opportunities keep opening up for women in the services.

“Once they get a job, they are judged by their performance, not their gender,” he said.

Melanie Bales, Pacific coordinator for AVID, a college preparatory program in DODDS, agreed that the number of male administrators to female educators is disproportional, but she said it’s not as bad as it was when she started teaching 24 years ago.

“I’ve seen a big turnaround in the number of women who have become leaders,” she said.

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