Just weeks after Recording Academy President Neil Portnow drew fire for saying women “need to step up” when asked why there weren’t more female Grammy winners, the organization announced a new task force on inclusion and diversity to be headed by Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama.
Tchen, a lawyer, is also working with the legal defense fund for Time’s Up, a group created by Hollywood women to combat sexual harassment.
The music-industry task force will look into “barriers and unconscious biases faced by underrepresented communities” within the Recording Academy and the broader music industry, the organization said in a statement. The task force also will include “music executives, music creators, academia, and experts in diversity in entertainment,” and eventually develop recommendations, per the Academy.
The powerful association’s decision to investigate itself follows outrage not only over Portnow’s comments about women, but broader criticism that although the organization might have publicly embraced the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements at this year’s Jan. 28 awards ceremony, gender equality wasn’t reflected in the heavily male winners’ list and performers in the televised event.
In one example, “Shape of You” singer Ed Sheeran took best pop solo performance honors over Kelly Clarkson, Kesha, Lady Gaga and Pink. And singer Lorde, who was the only woman nominated in the best album category, didn’t perform. All of which prompted the #GrammysSoMale hashtag — and now, apparently, the task force, which is charged with examining the group’s “operations and policies,” the group says.
“The music industry faces numerous challenges — from combating long-held biases to making sure women are represented and respected within the community,” Tchen said in the statement.
Portnow noted that Tchen, who also was executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, has no business ties to the music industry, something he said would make her objective. “We are honored to have her at the helm, guiding the Academy and our industry toward a greater good for everyone involved,” he said.