Leadership and Staff

Maria Pignataro Nielsen Chief Human Resources Officer

Maria Pignataro Nielsen was the Chief Human Resources Officer for The Atlantic Philanthropies through 2016, with responsibility for developing and executing global human resources strategies and programs. She was based in New York.

Ms. Nielsen oversaw Atlantic’s organizational performance and developed staff programs to support its culture, values and mission. She worked closely with other senior staff on processes related to the foundation’s spend-down plans to close its doors by the end of 2020. Chief among these were workforce planning across Atlantic’s international locations to meet the needs of Atlantic’s final phase, with a concurrent focus on employee development and outplacement support.

Prior to Atlantic, Ms. Nielsen was with Human Rights Watch for 16 years, creating its human resources function and serving as its Director of Global Human Resources. During her tenure, Human Rights Watch grew from a 90 person organization with five overseas locations to a staff of over 300 based in nearly 50 locations. Ms. Nielsen was responsible for meeting the strategic challenges of supporting a rapidly growing and globally dispersed workforce, designing and establishing HR systems and functions in the areas of organizational and policy development, local statutory compliance, global talent acquisition, global compensation and benefits, performance management, immigration and expatriation, safety and security, and employee and labor relations, and overseeing HRW’s international insurance portfolio.

Ms. Nielsen serves on InsideNGO’s international board of directors and its Human Resources Advisory Council, and was a founding member of the Steering Committee for the Psychosocial Initiative of Action Without Borders. She has been a guest lecturer and speaker on a variety of HR topics, and among other presentations was invited by the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to present to its staff on the pre-deployment phase of overseas assignments. She currently serves as a co-chair of the Foundation Administrators Network of Philanthropy/NY.

Ms. Nielsen is a graduate of Barnard College in New York and is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources by the Society for Human Resources Management, with additional certifications in Strategic Workforce Planning and International Assignment Management.

Recent Writings

> Retaining an Engaged Staff to the End