EqualVoice initiative advances international dialogue on gender equality in the media

  • Top-class EqualVoice Summit took place for the second time: Geena Davis, Anastacia, Dr. Maria Furtwängler, Micheline Calmy-Rey, Dr. Heather Cairns-Lee, Dr. Reinhard K. Sprenger, Helen Hoehne, Léa Steinacker, Carolina Müller-Möhl and many more support gender equality in the media and beyond.
  • Around 250 executives from leading international companies discussed the visibility of women in the media as well as the expressiveness of images.
  • The EqualVoice Factor, validated by ETH, now also analyzes moving images, making it one of the world’s first video analysis solutions for the presence of women and men.
  • EqualPYXX: Initiative for breaking stereotypes in images launched with partner Keystone-SDA. 
  • A total of 32 media brands in seven countries analyze their publications (print, digital and video) using the EqualVoice Factor, a semantic algorithm – 100 million unique clients targeted in 2025.

The second EqualVoice Summit organized by Ringier was held under the motto “The Power of Images” and once again met with great interest from more than 250 top executives from the international business, film and media worlds. 

On the afternoon of June 6, 2023, Ringier CEO Marc Walder and Dr. Annabella Bassler, CFO of the Ringier Group, had invited to the Aura in Zurich for a constructive discourse on gender equality in the media as well as on traditional role models.  Images can develop enormous power. The “Reuters Institute Digital News Report” states, among other things, that news about world events now reaches young people more frequently via social media and thus via media with a visual focus. Those who know how to use the power of images can achieve a lot and cause a lot of harm, can advance themselves and others or do harm. 

Dr. Annabella Bassler, CFO of the Ringier Group and initiator of the EqualVoice initiative: “We are delighted that so many interested leaders from business, politics and the media have once again accepted our invitation to the 2nd EqualVoice Summit. They are all engaged in the dialogue on gender equality – this time with “The Power of Images” focus. When we choose images and photos, we have a big influence on whether we serve role clichés and stereotypes or depict society and the world of work as it has since changed.” 

Depicting women in their diversity of roles creates reality. Showing men in their diverse roles breaks down prejudice. Society is diverse, and media companies and picture agencies in particular should take this into account. In fall 2023, Ringier will launch the EqualPYXX initiative together with Keystone-SDA so that visual stereotypes are also broken. 

High-caliber program featuring international guests: Oscar winner Geena Davis and pop star Anastacia present live in Zurich

This year’s Summit program included speeches and presentations by internationally renowned personalities on the topics of gender equality and the power of images. Former Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey began with a political perspective. This was followed by a keynote address on the impact of images from a scientific perspective by Dr. Heather Cairns-Lee, Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Communication at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne and Singapore. Subsequently, Dr. Reinhard K. Sprenger, Germany’s most distinguished leadership expert and best-selling author, shed light on the influence of gender on leadership within a company. This was followed by the presentation of Ringier’s EqualVoice initiative and a keynote speech by Carolina Müller-Möhl, investor, philanthropist and President of the Müller-Möhl Group and the Müller-Möhl Foundation. As an Advisory Board member and partner of EqualVoice, she spoke about equality in culture as well as about her “taskforce4women,” which aims to give women more visibility in culture and media as well as in business, politics, science and society in general. In keeping with the theme of the Summit, “The Power of Images,” Helen Hoehne, German-American journalist and President of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association since 2021, as well as a member of the Golden Globes jury, spoke about equality in images and films. Dr. Léa Steinacker, journalist and co-founder of “ada Learning GmbH”, and with teaching assignments at the University of St. Gallen inspired the audience with her contribution on Artificial Intelligence and Equality.  

On the panel on “Equality in Media & Advertising”, Marc Walder was joined by Dr. Maria Furtwängler, medical doctor, well-known actress and co-founder of the MaLisa Foundation, which advocates for a society in which all genders can fully develop their potential, Ana Hanžeković Krznarić, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Hanza Media from Croatia, and the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Politico Europe, Kate Day.  

As a star speaker, Geena Davis, the U.S. actress, film producer, two-time Oscar winner, Golden Globe winner, and founder of the Geena Davis Institute, gave an insight into the work of the institute she founded in 2004. It is the only global research-based organization working in the entertainment industry to promote gender balance, foster inclusion and break down negative stereotypes in family entertainment media.  She said: “The stories we tell in entertainment media convey a specific message about who matters most in our culture. To create global culture change, it is especially important that children see diverse, intersectional representations of characters in the media to reflect the world’s population – which is half female and very diverse-and to avoid inculcating unconscious bias in them. Media have the power to educate, to shape people’s minds. They also have incredible power when people see someone like themselves on the screen. We’ve found from the beginning that data is the key to defusing unconscious bias in the creation of entertainment media. We are taking a very similar approach to the EqualVoice Initiative. Through data-driven research, education and advocacy, we aim to empower and inspire media professionals to reshape the media landscape to reflect the world we live in.”

The EqualVoice Summit concluded with an exclusive concert performance by Anastacia, one of the most internationally successful pop artists of the past two decades. In addition to her impressive career, the singer has supported breast cancer prevention for decades with “The Anastacia Fund.” Anastacia proved that she has a unique voice, charisma and great talent for choosing the right songs during her performance at the Aura. 

Partners of the 2nd EqualVoice Summit were – as already in 2022 – the Müller-Möhl Foundation as well as Range Rover Switzerland.

Artificial intelligence at work: The EqualVoice Factor as the heart of the EqualVoice Initiative

Media studies continue to show a persistent gender imbalance in news coverage, with women often underrepresented. Women often receive less visibility, fewer speaking roles and fewer opportunities for leadership positions in news reporting and other forms of media coverage. 

In November 2019, Ringier launched the EqualVoice Initiative, which advocates for gender equality in media. The aim is to make women more visible in reporting and give them an equal voice. The core of the initiative is the EqualVoice Factor, an objective measurement tool that can analyze printed and digital content with the support of a semantic algorithm. The measurement method of the EqualVoice-Factor was validated by ETH Zurich in 2022, thus providing scientifically documented proof. 

In the meantime, the EqualVoice Factor has been further developed by Ringier to also recognize images. On the occasion of the EqualVoice Summit, it was announced that the EqualVoice Factor can recognize the gender of people in moving images (videos). This makes Ringier`s EqualVoice Factor the world’s first semantic algorithm to offer a solution for analyzing the proportion of women and men in moving images. The EqualVoice video analysis has already been implemented in the Blick Group as well as at Ringier media brands in Poland, Serbia and Hungary. Katia Murmann, entrepreneur and co-founder of the EqualVoice Initiative, says: “The continued development of the EqualVoice Factor for video analytics is just one example of the level of innovation and engagement that is the main driver of our EqualVoice initiative.”

From initiative to international movement – 100 million unique clients as a milestone

In the last three years since its inception, the EqualVoice Initiative has evolved into an international movement. Annabella Bassler has presented the EqualVoice Initiative twice recently in New York. Firstly at the International Peace Institute (IPI) in New York in cooperation with the “United Nations Commission on the Status of Women” and secondly at the INMA World Congress of News Media. In addition, EqualVoice made an appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2022 and 2023.

Continuous expansion of EqualVoice’s reach 

Already 32 media brands in seven European countries are actively using the EqualVoice Factor.  Marc Walder, CEO Ringier AG: “We are proud that the 32 EqualVoice media brands currently already reach 50 million users. Our goal is to break the sound barrier of 100 million unique clients as soon as possible.  The basic idea behind our EqualVoice initiative is spreading continuously. And as a media company, we bear part of the responsibility here. Media shows reality. Only if we live in a society in which the mentality of equality is lived within society can this also be reflected accordingly in the media. Therefore, we want to use our power to advance EqualVoice throughout society. But we cannot do this alone. It takes all of us – whether in politics, business or society.”

During the EqualVoice Summit, it was announced that Hanza Media Group from Croatia is now part of the EqualVoice initiative and is using the EqualVoice Factor.  Ana Hanžeković Krznarić, President of the Board of Directors of Hanza Media: “Diversity and gender balance are indispensable for future-oriented journalism. That’s why we want to drive this change through EqualVoice in our media brands in Croatia as well. For me, the strength of EqualVoice lies not only in its technology, but also in its ability to raise awareness in newsrooms and thus establish diverse reporting.”

Quote from the event

Micheline Calmy-Rey, Former Swiss Federal Councillor:  «A major obstacle for women on their way to the parole are stereotypes, clichés about women and men, which are tirelessly reproduced and which serve as a background for the perception – and unfortunately often also for the self-perception – of women.»

Dr. Maria Furtwängler, Medical doctor, well-known actress and co-founder of the MaLisa Foundation«Media shapes our perception of the world. Fair and equal gender representation in the media is a precondition for the achievement of gender equality.»

Dr. Heather-Cairns Lee, Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Communication at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne and Singapore: «Leaders who embrace inclusive language can shape cultures where talents from all walks of life strive.»

Dr. Reinhard K. Sprenger,  Germany’s most distinguished leadership expert and best-selling author:  «Nothing weakens the chances of a woman being recognized as having leadership potential more than the constant emphasis on female strength and assets.»

Carolina Müller-Möhl,  Investor, philanthropist and founder and president of the Müller-Möhl Group and the Müller-Möhl Foundation:   «Women have always been an important part of culture, but in the course of history they have been overlooked, undervalued and sometimes even erased. It’s time to change that!»

Helen Hoehne, Journalist, President of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association since 2021, as well as a member of the Golden Globes jury, spoke about equality in images and films:    «Gender equality is a fundamental pillar of a fair and inclusive society, where every individual is valued and empowered to thrive. Only when men, women, and non-binary people have equitable access to the resources, education, and decision-making processes, can we build a more prosperous, sustainable, and harmonious world. Ultimately, gender equality is not just a matter of justice and human rights, but a prerequisite for creating a thriving and resilient global community that benefits us all. »

Dr. Léa Steinacker, Journalist,  co-founder of “ada Learning GmbH”, and with teaching assignments at the University of St. Gallen:   «Diverse perspectives at the table and inclusive representation in training data are cornerstones of responsible AI development and deployment that reflects democracy and fairness.»

About EqualVoice
The initiative was launched by CFO Annabella Bassler in November 2019, and is chaired by publisher Michael Ringier and CEO Marc Walder. Its aim is to advocate gender equality and improve the visibility of women in the media. The central element of the initiative is an indicator known as the EqualVoice factor. Further projects related to EqualVoice include the Female Experts List, Ringier’s internal tool for finding female experts, the EqualPyxx photo challenge, aimed at generating images with more diversity, and the female experts workshop ‘Get Ready – Go Forward’, which supports women in making the most of their expertise. An international expansion of the EqualVoice factor to include other media brands is planned for the near future. www.equalvoice.ch

Ringier AG, Corporate Communications