Choir, a diversity tech platform and certification program for financial services conferences, announced the first group of Choir Certified and Inaugural Partner conferences, which are taking action toward raising the visibility of women, nonbinary people and people of color onstage. The startup was launched earlier this year by Sonya Dreizler, an impact investing consultant and founder of Solutions With Sonya, and Liv Gagnon, founder of public relations and marketing consulting firm Portaga, with the goal of setting the industry standard for conference diversity.
“Since we launched, there has been an outpouring of interest from conferences across the financial industry searching for this exact type of third-party validation and support to help them reach their on-stage representation goals,” said Gagnon, Choir co-founder, in a statement. “Conference teams have a massive job to do each year, and it can be easy to overlook nuances to the agenda that could have an impact on speaker diversity and equity. The data and guidance we provide has already proven to be valuable for conference organizers, and we’re just getting started.”
Envestnet’s 2021 Advisor Summit, Carson Group’s Excell 2021 and First Affirmative Financial Network’s 2021 ESG For Impact! are the first events to receive the Choir certification, meaning they earned a Choir Score of 60 or above.
Choir uses a proprietary assessment to quantify “visibility,” which is not simply a number of women, people of color and nonbinary people speaking onstage at the event. They look granularly at each speaking spot and assess visibility based on seven factors, such as stage visibility, the number of concurrent sessions and the number of panelists. They also look at whether a session offers continuing education (CE) credits, as those tend to be more popular among attendees. Presentation length is another factor; a lot of conferences have “mini sessions,” for instance, which get less visibility.
Those factors are then cross-referenced with the race and gender data for each speaker, with an additional metric that accounts for the multiple levels of discrimination that women of color face.
Choir aggregates all that data to come up with a Choir Score, from 1 to 100, which quantifies how well the conference highlights marginalized groups in comparison to their representation in the U.S. population. Conferences with a score of 60 or higher will be eligible for the certification and receive a bronze, silver or gold badge to show their commitment to diversity on stage.
Choir also announced its Inaugural Partner Conferences, including Informa Connect’s RIA Edge, Snappy Kraken’s Jolt! Conference and Advisor Circle’s Future Proof. The partnership is for first-year events that seek to meet Choir’s standards of representation. The company works with the event’s planning team to benchmark goals and assess the conference’s representation in real time. This cooperation also increases the likelihood that the event will earn the certification once it’s complete.
“Wealth Management Edge is shaping up to be the largest third-party event in our industry, and we have both an opportunity and responsibility to make sure we emphasize the importance of diversity, and the wide range of voices and perspectives that are reshaping financial advice,” said Mark Bruno, managing director of wealth management at Informa Connect. “The partnership with Choir is an important step forward—and it’s the first of many new programs and initiatives we will be introducing to focus on diversity and inclusion in wealth management.”