Recently, a Western New York publication published a list of the 200 people they consider to be most influential in our community. While the creation of such lists is always a flawed process, I took great exception to the way this particular inventory was amassed, for a few reasons.
First and foremost, there was no disclosure of the standards used to assemble this anointed group. In reading through the 200 names, there were well-known leaders of commerce and community. Yet there were also exceptional leaders not included, causing inquiring minds to wonder exactly how the list was compiled?
Second, while each of us may have our own idea as to the top dog in this influential group, I disagreed with the publications choice of Carl Paladino as number one. No doubt Paladino’s wealth and business success have brought him great power. Yet his continually abrasive means of achieving his objectives generally hurts, more than helps, our community. It’s unfortunate that Paladino is unable to control his anger, as many times his viewpoints have great merit, but as the saying goes, he is his own worst enemy.
Third, and the most significant reason why I was annoyed by this list of 200, is the fact that in a community where women represent more than half of the population, only 31 of those noted (just over one eighth of the total) were women. To be clear, I have no problem with any of the women who were chosen. They are all excellent community and business leaders who serve as terrific role models. What I am concerned about is the fact that more women were not included. Here’s why.
While some spheres of our community may be influenced more significantly by men than women, the reality of life in Western New York is that women are the majority. Through that majority they have earned spheres of influence unrelated to money or corporate power, which have directly impacted their families, their neighborhoods and our community at large. Their achievements make as much difference to Western New York as a successful corporate merger or a top political office. Yet in reading through this 200 list, that fact is far from evident.
In looking up the definition of influential I found the following: moving, guiding, inspiring, meaningful, and persuasive. Perhaps these words should become part of any qualifying checklist pertaining to those who influence our community. They can be included right alongside the standard: important, powerful, prestigious, wealthy, and authoritative.
Maybe then, the balance of influence in Western New York, both real and perceived, will shift to a more even divide.