Member of the Month

Andrea Bertels

Vice President, Global Responsibility & Sustainability, Nielsen

Executive Director, Grantmaking, Nielsen Foundation

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Nielsen and the Nielsen Foundation and how you became involved/interested in this work?

I lead our Nielsen Cares associate volunteering program and global nonprofit relationships. Nielsen associates get 24 hours of volunteer time each year when we can use our time and skills, as well as Nielsen’s data and expertise. On our annual global day of service, Nielsen Global Impact Day, over 24,000 associates volunteer in 92 countries doing everything from hackathons, teaching STEM classes in schools, packing food in pantries and building houses. Nielsen also commits $10 million each year in pro bono and in-kind giving.

I’ve always been interested in how business, nonprofit organizations, and government can collaborate to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. Though my current role is my first official corporate social responsibility job, it’s perfect for me, since I can also bring my economics background and love of spreadsheets to connect data to social causes.

I also serve as Executive Director of Grantmaking for the Nielsen Foundation, a private foundation funded by Nielsen. The Nielsen Foundation seeks to bridge divides and enhance the use of data by the social sector to reduce discrimination, ease global hunger, promote effective education, and build strong leadership. In 2019, the Nielsen Foundation distributed $1.7 million in grants to more than 50 organizations.

2. Nielsen and the Nielsen Foundation have been such supporters of the Institute; can you talk about some of the ways we’ve worked together?

We love working together with the Institute to drive equality in media representation! Through Nielsen, we’ve provided pro bono ratings data to help the Institute define the universe of television content for its See Jane TV reports. We were so thrilled to hear that the Fall 2019 See Jane report revealed gender parity for the first time in top children’s programming for leads and co-leads, both on screen and in speaking time. Nielsen has also helped the Institute look at ratings data for specific types of demographic groups, to understand how top programs vary by age and household type, which can lead to more insights about how to drive content that’s more inclusive and representative for a variety of audiences.

The Nielsen Foundation has also awarded three Data for Good grants to the Institute from 2017 to 2019. These grants support nonprofit projects that use data in innovative ways to catalyze long-term change. The grants to the Institute have supported development of the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ) media measurement tool, as well as an impact study for the Institute’s work.

3. How does the Institute support your work at Nielsen? Why is the mission and work of the Institute valuable to a company like Nielsen?

Nielsen’s media data and insights really aim to capture one thing for our clients and the industry: the truth about what people watch and listen to, across all channels and platforms. We know that when content creators and advertisers have the insights and data to better understand their audiences, they can make better, more inclusive business decisions. We found a perfect match with the Institute’s data-driven approach and mission to create a media landscape that reflects society. By using data and measurement to capture the truth about inclusive and representative content, the Institute is driving fact-based conversations and helping the industry become more inclusive. Inside Nielsen, we are also focused on fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion because it’s how innovation flourishes, our clients win, and employees are engaged.

4. How do you envision the movement for equal representation in media progressing in the future? What are some areas you would personally like to see improvement?

The more content providers can provide real, interesting, well-rounded characters, the more we’ll progress toward parity and equal representation in all types of content. One of my favorite shows of the last couple of years is Fleabag, which is full of female characters that are both deeply flawed but deeply interesting, and it made it hard to look away! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Fleabag was created and written by a woman. By contrast, when female characters are cast as two-dimensional, typically supporting whatever interesting work the male characters are doing, it’s cliched and expected. It’s also critical for women and people of color to continue to get more opportunities behind the camera, in both the content creation and selection process, to reflect characters in a more authentic way and provide the type of content that diverse audiences are seeking.

There’s also an opportunity to consider representation beyond what you can see. The industry also needs to champion for more self-ID when it comes to gender, multiple abilities and ethnicities. Only then can the media industry be truly reflective of the world we live in.

5. What was your “If she can see it, she can be it” moment as a child? Was there a particular media moment that inspired or empowered you as a young person?

One of my earliest memories was feeling inspired by the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when I watched the U.S. women’s gymnastics team and Kerri Strug land her second vault to secure the gold medal. I very much was not a gymnast and certainly wasn’t inspired to go throw myself off a vault, but that moment, and especially the resulting media coverage, is still so indelible in my mind. It showed me the power of women, the uniting force of a powerful narrative, and how influential just one person can be. Even though my current role requires much less physical strength and coordination, I hope I carry those lessons with me through my work at Nielsen and the Nielsen Foundation.

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IF SHE CAN SEE IT, SHE CAN BE IT