A new student organization is looking to get more women placed at the highest levels of the accounting field.

At its annual luncheon April 27, the Illinois State chapter of the Accounting & Finance Women’s Alliance (AFWA) became one of only three collegiate chapters to be officially chartered with the professional organization. AFWA is designed for women in the accounting field who want to build a stronger network with their peers and reach their full potential.

AFWA first came to Illinois State in 2016 through a group of women serving in leadership roles in other accounting and business student organizations. The students were noticing more women showing up to these events and felt there was an opportunity for a women’s accounting organization. The students reached out to the national chapter of the AFWA to start a club at Illinois State.

“We weren’t looking to necessarily replace any organization on campus,” said junior accounting major Michaela Sprier. “We wanted to supplement them with a group to support the growing number of women who are getting into the field.”

Accounting graduate student Emily Vondriska said she wants to see more students graduating from Illinois State getting to the highest levels in their organizations.

“There are roughly an equal number of men and women that go into accounting, but when you get up to the partner level, only 18 percent of those professionals are women,” she said. “We want to show that there is a career path and people that can help you on your way. Hopefully, over time, we can even the numbers out a little bit.”

Illinois State’s AFWA chapter members believe joining the national organization will provide crucial tools for women hoping to make partner equality a reality. Being officially chartered with the AFWA puts Illinois State students in direct contact with a vast network of women working as accountants.

“By joining, you find out so much more about accounting,” Mia Shah, a junior accounting major, said. “A lot of that knowledge comes from the people you meet, and AFWA has a deep well of people ready to help. You are already one step ahead just by joining.”

Assistant Professor of Accounting Madeline Trimble has supported the students. Trimble is a proud member of AFWA and is equally proud to be the Illinois State chapter’s advisor.

“AFWA has always been one of my favorite professional organizations, and I have always been open about how much I enjoy what they do,” she said. “Going to their events as a member has always been great, so when approached about getting this group going, I couldn’t have been more pleased.”

For future Redbirds, joining AFWA is a great way to learn about the field and build your network, said Alex Schwartz, senior accounting and organizational leadership double major.

“You can learn from the experiences of your peers and those of professionals,” she said. “You actually have a lot of freedom to do anything with your accounting degree, and AFWA helps show some of those paths.”