See Jane Spotlight

Representation Matters: Nielsen Says It’s Time to Stand Up and Be Counted

By Mary Ellen Holden

The demand for diverse storytelling and inclusive content creation onscreen and behind-the-camera has never been stronger than it is today. Nielsen is deeply committed to “truth in measurement,” and there is a direct connection between diversity, inclusivity, and truth throughout Nielsen’s business. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ginger Bushell, Senior Vice President, Global Content Governance at Nielsen, to get an inside look at how diversity and inclusion (D&I) inform the way Nielsen operates. I learned that Nielsen is not only a trusted source of truth in global measurement and data analytics; it is also a “First Responder,” dedicated to identifying gaps in data and advocating for new information that can make the industry more responsive to the changing times that our global, multicultural content world requires. Let’s look.

Mary Ellen Holden: How has Nielsen ensured D&I leadership within its workplace?

Ginger: For starters, David Kenny, our CEO, is also our Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). He believes that D&I is crucial to the success of our business and all businesses. And, as a measurement company, we continually measure our progress. Quantitatively, we look at several key metrics: executive appointments, internal mobility of associates, retention of top talent, and making sure diverse slates are used in promotion decisions as well as with hiring. Qualitatively, we prioritize outcomes and behaviors we want to see in our culture and how leaders are holding themselves accountable. These conversations take place on an ongoing basis and are a part of our bi-annual talent review process. We encourage inclusive hiring, unconscious bias training for managers, and active participation in Employee Resource Groups.

Mary Ellen Holden: Can you share a D&I metric that Nielsen has committed to?

Ginger: Last year, our CEO signed the LEAD Network CEO Pledge, which provides specific actions to drive more significant advancement of women in our ranks. Specifically, we pledged to increase women in senior leadership roles by seven percentage points by 2021 (46% female composition). Every C-suite leader has a related goal which is consistently measured and discussed. A dashboard with monthly updates by the business identifies and tracks progress.

Mary Ellen Holden: How do Nielsen’s research tools reflect and improve the world around us?

Ginger: We help clients understand the behavioral nuance across consumer segments so that they can meet the needs of an increasingly diverse consumer group. Without inclusive measurement methodologies at the start, data would be less likely to yield relevant, useful insights, causing exponential future issues.

Mary Ellen Holden: Is that why Nielsen took a public stand on the citizenship question in the 2020 Census?

Ginger: Yes. The census is conducted every ten years to get a complete, accurate count of the people in our country. To be truly inclusive, the methodology must be free from bias, and no one should be deterred from completing the census. Realistically, billions of dollars in funding, media, and commerce follow these counts. Based on the latest census, multicultural consumers are projected to become the majority of the population by 2044. It’s critical that multicultural US households participate in the census so we all have an accurate representation of US household diversity.

Mary Ellen Holden: What keeps you up at night?

Ginger: In an increasingly global content world, the industry and audiences are demanding more D&I onscreen and behind the scenes, yet this information is difficult to secure. We are being asked by content creators to help them recruit talent by gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity and abilities; yet, beyond gender (Male, Female and Non-Binary), information is limited. Historically, individuals have been reluctant to provide this level of personal data for fear of profiling.

Mary Ellen Holden: What is Studio System?

Ginger: Studio System is the leading “people” data provider to Hollywood, with over 2 million unique person records, covering all major job functions in front of and behind the camera. Founded in the 1980s, today it is the entertainment industry’s go-to database, used by every major studio, network, talent agency, and production company to identify and track producers and directors, actors and agents, writers and below-the-line talent, while concurrently monitoring every Film, TV and Streaming project, from planning through post-production. It also provides box-office results, deep-dive research tools, and contact information for Hollywood’s most influential decision-makers.

Mary Ellen Holden: How can Studio System help?

Ginger: I believe that we need to encourage self-identification as it would populate a more robust database. This would meet the recruitment demands of content creators and help solve for the dearth of women, people with different abilities and people of color behind the camera who are best equipped to tell diverse stories for the global content world.

Mary Ellen Holden: Can the industry help?

Ginger: Yes, let’s all encourage talent, especially behind the camera, to self-identify! Just like with the 2020 Census, this is the best way to stand up and be counted. It also maximizes an individual’s chance of getting selected for projects, and it allows us to measure our diversity progress across the industry. Our industry call to action is “Do Ask, Do Tell!”

Mary Ellen Holden: Nielsen and the Nielsen Foundation have been longtime supporters of the Institute. Can you share how you work with us?

Ginger: Nielsen and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University share a common core belief that inclusive measurement of data yields authentic insights and truths that the industry cannot ignore. Nielsen has supported the Institute’s research to identify onscreen representation, uncover trends and share potential intervention strategies. For example, through our Nielsen Cares and Data for Good pro bono efforts, we provided ratings data to help the Institute define and analyze television content for their See Jane report to advance inclusion. Findings in fall 2019 revealed gender parity for leads and co-leads in top children’s programming on screen and in speaking time. An industry first!

The Nielsen Foundation, a private foundation funded by Nielsen, has awarded the Institute three Data for Good grants in 2017, 2018, and 2019. These grants support projects that use data in innovative ways to catalyze long-term change. The Nielsen Foundation funded an impact study for the Institute, and more recently, it provided funding to support continued development of the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ) media measurement tool.

Mary Ellen Holden: What advice do you have for females entering this industry?

Ginger: Stand up and let your voice be heard. Support and advocate for other women in your lives. When we help each other, we lift up everyone.

IF SHE CAN SEE IT, SHE CAN BE IT