The Illinois CPA Society honored four members with its annual “Women to Watch” awards, which recognize the recipients’ contributions to the accounting profession, their organization and the progression of women leaders.

The Illinois CPA Society’s Women’s Executive Committee and American Institute of CPAs Work/Life and Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee selected the following women, which include Accounting Tomorrow blogger Jody Padar, as the 2011 “Women to Watch” recipients:

Experienced Leader Category:

•    Melissa Kibler Knoll is a senior managing director at Mesirow Financial Consulting, providing corporate recovery, financial advisory forensics and litigation services. She is also the immediate past president of the American Bankruptcy Institute and chair of the AICPA Bankruptcy Task Force, speaking frequently on bankruptcy and restructuring topics. Knoll is the immediate past board chair of the Chicago Children’s Choir and a member of the Outreach Team of Women Employed.

•    Phyllis Malitz is a partner with Silver Lerner Schwartz & Fertel, leading the firm’s marketing and practice development initiatives and representing the firm in the Marketing Share Group of AGN International. Malitz also provides community education on tax issues through her work with the Skokie Chamber of Commerce, The Lilac Tree and as a founding member of the Exclusive Professional Women’s Networking Group.

Emerging Leader Category:

•    Arla Lach is a senior manager in the audit services group of Grant Thornton, where she was the first woman in the firm’s history in the role of chief of staff to the CEO. She leads the firm’s women’s initiatives in Chicago and is a founding member of the Illinois CPA Society’s Women’s Initiative Task Force. Lach is also the secretary of the board of directors of the Step Up Women’s Network, which mentors underserved girls.

•    Jody Padar, in addition to blog contributor, is the CEO and principal of New Vision CPA Group, a family-owned firm that she has transformed with smart technology and new practices, making her one of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People. Padar is a champion of the Chicago Ladder Up program that organizes a group of student volunteers every year for the tax-assistance program.

“These award recipients embody the best and brightest within our profession,” said Illinois CPA Society president and CEO Elaine Weiss in a statement. “They are amazing role models and mentors to the next generation of impressive women CPAs now entering the accounting profession.”

The women were honored at the Illinois CPA Society’s Women’s Leadership Breakfast Nov. 17 at the Standard Club in Chicago. More information on the winners and the event is available at