Women to Watch award-winners pose with past MACPA Chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor and current chair Michael Manspeaker. Top photo: Emerging Leaders Jennifer Milas and Michelle Chopper. Bottom photo: Experienced Leaders Jennifer Elder and Dr. Jan Williams.

Have you ever been to an awards program and find that you’re still inspired a week later?

When you gather Maryland’s most accomplished CPAs and leaders in one room for a few hours of insights and applause, that’s what happens.

For those of you who couldn’t be there, let me try to capture the essence of the MACPA Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force’s Women to Watch Awards program (and new this year, an AICPA award recognizing the men who support them, too). I was too busy soaking in the sage advice of those on stage to take notes, so as I often do, I’ve gone back to the event’s Twitter stream to share the best thinking from the packed room:

  • “If you want to be a good leader, it’s not about you. It’s about others.” — @kesslerLexy 

  • “I would rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.” — @kellisontaylor
  • “Work-to-life fit: Not a balance because we are never in balance … perfect explanation!”

  • #YouNeverKnow will push you out of your comfort zone to do things you might not otherwise not do.”
  • “The tone at the top: Create it then live it.” 

  • “What makes it a great day? Making a difference.”

  • “Hearing that mentors are all around us. Who has what you want? Ask how they got it? Don’t limit by age, gender, industry, title, etc.”

  • “Move from passive exclusion to active inclusion.” 

  • “It doesn’t matter how smart you are if not one wants to be around you.”
  • “Soft skills are the true hard skills.” — @rjbrownCPA

  • “Never discount value from getting mentorship from younger professionals.” — Aileen Eskildsen

  • “Believe in yourself and have a support system that believes in you at home and at work.” — @timsamuelCFO

  • “Great advice from @kellisontaylor: Volunteer for those tasks no one else wants to do.”


Most of these insights came from past MACPA chair and soon-to-be AICPA Vice Chair Kimberly Ellison Taylor as she shared her captivating recipe for success — a can-do attitude, aptitude, faith, authenticity, boldness, and confidence. As she walked through her story, you could see the room light up and lean into what this amazing leader had to say.

All of this happened before the announcements of this year’s record-setting 32 nominees of outstanding CPAs and the winners (drum roll, please):

Emerging Leader Award

  • Michelle Chopper of Arthur Bell CPAs, Hunt Valley, Md.
  • Jennifer Milas of McLean, Koehler, Sparks and Hammond, Frederick, Md. 


Experienced Leader Award

  • Jennifer Elder of Sustainable CFO, Annapolis, Md. 
  • Dr. Jan Williams of the University of Baltimore.  

The AICPA’s newest award, which is being piloted this year in only two states, is the “Men Who Get It Award” for mentoring and sponsoring women in career development and championing the cause for diversity. The winner of these first-ever award was Brian Israel of Dixon Hughes & Goodman, LLP Rockville, Md.

Read more about the event and take a look at the photo stream we captured.

At the MACPA and The Business Learning Institute, we often send each other off to meetings and speaking gigs with a wish for “hope and inspiration.” We have plenty to be hopeful about and all the inspiration you need from these amazing women professionals and leaders. If you were there, add your reflections in the comments below. If you weren’t there, mark your calendar for next year’s Women to Watch Awards — Sept. 30, 2016.

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