Chor introduces first diversity certification for financial conferences


    Sonya Dreizler, impact investing consultant and founder of Solutions with Sonya, and Liv Gagnon, founder of PR and marketing consultancy Portaga, have teamed up to create Choir, a diversity tech platform and financial services conference certification program. The choir certification is the first of its kind for the financial industry, and the two women hope to set the industry standard for conference diversity, with the aim of increasing the visibility of women, non-binary people and people of color on the stage of industry events.

    «Our primary goal is to raise the voices of women, colored and non-binary people in the financial industry that the industry has systemically and historically ignored in many ways,» said Gagnon. “We just knew from last year that this is not a pipeline problem. That really is a problem with who we as an industry are listening to. So that is really the wish that we hope to achieve. «

    Conference organizers who wish to receive certification will work with Choir to evaluate their latest event. The choir then uses this data to compile guidelines and a framework that will help organizers meet higher standards of diversity year after year.

    The choir uses a proprietary rating to quantify «visibility,» which is not just a number of women, people of color, and non-binary people speaking on stage at the event. You take a detailed look at each speaking point and evaluate the visibility based on seven factors, such as the visibility of the stage, the number of simultaneous sessions and the number of panelists.

    «A keynote speaker is much more visible than a four-person panel while three other panels are taking place at the same time,» said Dreizler.

    They also check if a session offers continuing education credits (CE) as these tend to be more popular with attendees. The length of the presentation is another factor; for example, many conferences have «mini-sessions» that are less visible.


    Screenshots from the website

    These factors are then compared to the racial and gender data for each speaker, with an additional metric that takes into account the various levels of discrimination women of color face.

    Choir combines all of this data to produce a choir rating from 1 to 100, which quantifies how well the conference highlights voices from women and people of color compared to their representation in the US population. Conferences with a score of 60 or higher may qualify for certification and receive a bronze, silver, or gold badge to show their commitment to diversity on stage.

    All choir certified conferences are published on the company’s website,

    “You can use the seal in your marketing and really do a few things – to help the conference really stand out in an increasingly competitive event space, to get more attendees, speakers and sponsors with DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion). Set values ​​and also provide objective third party validation and a framework for their DEI initiatives, ”said Gagnon.

    Conferences pay not only for certification, but also for the choir’s advisory services, which help identify challenges and opportunities for improvement. The choir will also help conferences connect with a wider range of speakers. In the second quarter of 2022, Choir plans to launch a solution to connect women and people of color in the industry with conferences and media. Starting this week, women and people of color in the industry will be able to express their interest in more information on connecting to conferences and the media on the choir’s website.

    Choir is also launching the Choir Pledge, a free public declaration of commitment and allies that must be signed by sponsors, conference speakers, and attendees. The commitment includes four high-level diversity criteria that potential attendees can easily measure by reviewing a conference agenda and website. The signatories will be listed publicly on the choir website.

    «What we are seeing across the financial industry is a collective awareness of the lack of representation of women and people of color on stage – yet predominantly white men still appear in prominent speaking roles at events,» Gagnon said in a statement. «It’s time to put measurable, transparent benchmarks into action that can help well-intentioned companies measure progress and highlight the important perspectives of women and people of color.»

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