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Practice Management > Diversity and Inclusion

New Platform Aims to Boost Diversity of Event Speakers

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A group of financial professionals has introduced Choir, a platform and certification process that aims to make speakers at financial services conferences more reflective of the U.S. population. 

Choir’s algorithm analyzes the prominence and visibility of women, people of color and non-binary individuals scheduled to speak on stage and can be used as a benchmark (or “Choir Certification”) for conference diversity. The organization says its platform also uses data to outline ways to feature diverse and “increasingly representative speaker lineups” on a consistent basis. 

“Who we listen to matters,” according to Sonya Dreizler, co-founder of Choir, who is also an industry speaker, consultant and judge of ThinkAdvisor’s LUMINARIES recognition program. “Hearing from women, people of color, and especially women of color, benefits all of us by driving innovation, broadening our perspectives, and expanding our industry’s ability to reach more people.” 

The Choir Certification, for instance, tracks conferences’ improvements in diversity and inclusion from one year to the next, and those using the platform get detailed assessments with diversity metrics from recent events as well as custom suggestions and speaker introductions for future events. 

Having “women and people of color on stage expands who we view as authorities, and who gets to set the direction for a company or industry,” Dreizler explained. “That’s why Liv [Gagnon] and I are so enthusiastic about working with conference teams to measure and improve representation on stage.” 

In addition to its certification program, Choir is also rolling out Choir Pledge, which includes four criteria and can be endorsed by event sponsors, speakers and attendees. Those signing the pledge will be posted on the program’s website.

Cheryl Nash, CEO of the fintech firm InvestCloud’s Financial Supermarket business, said on Twitter Wednesday: “Signed the pledge and ready for real change! Congratulations @SonyaDreizler@LIVgagnon ‘bout to see big things!”

The news also caught the eye of industry speaker and veteran blogger Michael Kitces, who Tweeted Tuesday: “Very interesting! @SonyaDreizler launching a new certification for conferences themselves to affirm their commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. A form of B-Corp Certification for #FinServ conferences?”

The Choir Certification’s algorithm looks at event speakers via seven visibility factors, including stage visibility (i.e. mainstage vs breakout rooms), the number of concurrent sessions and the number of panelists, for instance. These factors are then cross-referenced with race and gender data for the speakers.

Conferences receive scores of up to 100, with those at 60 or more points receiving a gold, silver or bronze Choir Certification. 

“It’s time to start putting measurable, transparent benchmarks in action that can help well-intentioned companies measure progress and showcase the important perspectives of women and people of color,” said Gagnon, a co-founder of Choir and founder of the consulting firm Portaga, in a statement. 

(Image shown: Sonya Dreizler)