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More than a decade ago, BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty recognition program to celebrate the achievements of the region’s rising stars. A few years later, a new program was launched called Difference Makers, which paid tribute to those who have become just what the name on the plaque says.

And just last year, BusinessWest and its sister publication, the Healthcare News, launched a program to recognize the accomplishments of those in the broad field of health and wellness with Healthcare Heroes.

Over the years, many women have come to the podium for ceremonies involving each award.

So why did BusinessWest create a new recognition specifically targeting that demographic, called Women of Impact? The answer is simple: while there are many women of achievement in this region — and have been over the centuries — not enough of them have received the recognition they are due.

What was needed, we concluded, was a new program that recognizes women not for what they’ve done, necessarily, but what they’ve become — specifically, role models, mentors, and inspirations to those around them.

And that is what Women of Impact does. As the stories clearly show, this region has no shortage of women making a real impact — in their specific business fields, but also in the community.

This inaugural class, meanwhile, is very emblematic of this region, its business community, and the nonprofit agencies that are such a huge force here. Indeed, this area is known as an education leader, and two of our honorees are from opposite ends of that realm — Janis Santos, leader of HCS Head Start, and Carol Leary, president of Bay Path University.

And, as noted, the region has a large number of nonprofits that are making a difference across the region. That realm is well-represented by Gina Kos, director of Sunshine Village; Colleen Loveless, director of Revitalize Community Development Corp.; and Katie Allen Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Mass. There are civic leaders as well, specifically Denise Jordan — now director of the Springfield Housing Authority and former chief of staff for Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno — and Jean Canosa Albano, assistant director of Public Services for the Springfield City Library, and one traditional businesswoman, if you will, in Kerry Dietz, principal of Dietz Architecture.

But while these women typically have business cards that tie them to one business, agency, or institution, their influence extends far, far beyond the walls of the place where they work. And that’s what makes them Woman of Impact.

This is an exciting new program, and it has allowed us to tell some remarkable stories. We hope you enjoy them, and we hope that you’ll nominate a woman of impact for the class of 2019. To do that, go HERE.