Choir, a diversity tech platform and certification program for financial services conferences, has launched Voices: Search, a platform connecting reporters, conference planners and content producers with diverse sources and speakers in the wealth management industry.
Choir, which 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, is currently working with about a dozen media organizations or national associations that want to use Voices in beta. The searchable database has over 200 potential sources and speakers that include people of color, women and nonbinary professionals.
In conjunction with the launch, Choir also announced that Dani Fava, group head of product innovation at Envestnet, has joined its board of directors.
“Every time I go to a conference or I’m talking to the press, I know there’s a desire to have more representation,” Fava said. “So the question usually comes to me, being a person of color, being a member of the LGBTQ community, I will be asked, ‘Hey do you have anyone else in your network that we can ask to come speak?’ Now it’s not just a matter of someone like me finding other peers within my network to connect with conference organizers; it’s conference organizers having that information readily available to them. They’re taking the legwork out of it.”
Gagnon said Voices: Search was actually the initial idea when she started discussing Choir, but they decided to start with the conference certification to first define what representation is and put benchmarks around how to look at representation and visibility in the marketplace.
“This is the actionable solution,” she said. “This is, ‘OK, now that you know where you stand with representation, here’s how you can find more amazing voices.’”
Media organizations can sign on to participate in the beta version at no cost, if they agree to sign on for the first quarter of next year at $2,500 a quarter.
Choir surveyed financial journalists last year, and about 70% of them said internally in their organizations they were being asked to focus on finding more representative sources. But media outlets said they didn’t have a workflow or process to keep track of how representative their source line-ups were.
“It was really around the time of 2020, 2021, I was seeing this disconnect between the folks I was working with in this space—firms led by amazing queer, black women and other women of color,” Gagnon said. “This whole world exists in finance that’s doing incredible work—I was not seeing that in the media. Anytime I was asked to connect specifically with more diverse perspectives, it was around some type of traumatic incident, whether the George Floyd murder, the terrible Asian hate crimes.
“It made me realize, ‘Why are we only calling on these incredible people to talk to them about the fact that they’re people of color?’” she said. “I had this idea almost jokingly, wouldn’t it be great that when the media reached out, the default was not the traditional voices that we always see? Which are typically white, straight men.”
Earlier this year, Gagnon and Dreizler launched the Choir Certification program for financial services conferences, the first of its kind in this industry, with the hope of setting the standard for conference diversity and raising the visibility of women, nonbinary people and people of color onstage at industry events. In March, they announced the first group of Choir Certified and Inaugural Partner conferences, which included Envestnet’s 2021 Advisor Summit, Carson Group’s Excell 2021 and First Affirmative Financial Network’s 2021 ESG For Impact!.