Women have finally opened a sizable hole in corporate America's glass ceiling.

A Pew Research Center report released recently showed young American women are increasingly likely to receive pay nearly equal their male colleagues and are moving into higher career positions in government and business.

They've had some good role models in the women now leading Fortune 500 companies. Indra Nooyi is the highly respected CEO of PepsiCo Inc. Ursula Burns runs Xerox, while Virginia Rometty is the No. 1 at IBM.

A new role model emerged when General Motors named Mary Barra its next CEO. Barra, a 33-year company veteran with an engineering background, replaces Dan Akerson, who is retiring to care for his cancer-stricken wife.

Barra's ascension to the top spot at GM and Pew's earnings news are encouraging signs for women across the workforce. They should feel empowered to seek whatever career path they choose with their eyes set on executive jobs.

Why, then, are so many women pessimistic about gender equality in the workplace?

Seventy-five percent of women ages 18-32 say more needs to be done about equality, in line with their baby boomer peers. While just 15 percent say they've actually been discriminated against because of their gender, many still see the workplace as a "man's world" where men make more money for the same job and have an easier time attaining executive positions.

That belief is understandable when women hold just 4.5 percent of the CEO spots in the Fortune 1000.

Obviously, there's still work to be done in offices across the country to ensure women feel they are being given equal opportunities to succeed at the highest level. But some of that responsibility falls on the women themselves.

With examples like Barra, women shouldn't be afraid to aggressively push for raises and promotions while leaning on one another for support through strong networking.

That ceiling isn't going to break itself.