How The Grammys Are Acknowledging Its Woman Problem

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
Following their announcement in March that Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, would head up the Recording Academy's Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, the Grammys have a released a list of people on the task force. Among the musicians and music industry folk on the list is the very woman who called out the Academy for their underrepresentation of women.
Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder and director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, was one of the primary authors of a study called "Inclusion in the Recording Studio?" that dropped ahead of the 2018 Grammy Awards, highlighting how poor representation for women is in music, and at the Grammys in particular. It cast a pall over the awards that was intensified when only one woman, Alessia Cara, won an award during the show, and the sole women nominated for Album of the Year, Lorde, was not offered a performance slot. The idea that the Grammys were out of touch with culture was further intensified when it became clear they had not arranged any plans to represent or work with the #MeToo movement and Time's Up. In response, a group of women in the music industry organised a white rose campaign on the show's red carpet. When asked about the Academy featuring and awarding women less after the Grammys, Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy, said that women needed to "step up," and triggered a fall out among artists and music industry execs.
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Smith has previously helmed a report on inclusivity and diversity in Hollywood that started conversations about representation for women both in front of and behind the camera. Exclusively for Refinery29, Smith and the institute analysed diversity in size in film and found that women characters were three times as likely to be thin as their co-stars who are men.
In addition, Sheryl Crow, an artist who publicly took on Portnow's "step up" statement, has joined the committee. Shortly after the Grammys, she tweeted her idea to even things up: that the Grammys should bring back male and female categories.
Another woman who prominently took a stance against the Grammys in the days following the controversial "step up" comment is also joining the task force. Michele Anthony, executive vice president and executive management board member at Universal Music Group, was one of the highest level music industry execs in a group of six who sent a letter to the trustees of the Recording Academy's board on behalf of their companies. In it, all of the woman put themselves forward to help and stopped just short of saying Portnow and the Grammy telecast executive producer Ken Ehrlich should resign.
Rounding out the task force are: Common, Andra Day, country singer Cam. producer Jimmy Jam, ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews, EVP and general counsel at Sony Music Julie Swidler, BET networks chairman and CEO (and the first recipient of the Grammy Salute to Industry Icons) Debra Lee, VP of licensing at ATO Records Stephanie Alexa, TV journalist Giselle Fernandez, CEO and co-owners of Creative Nation Beth Laird, CEO and co-founder of Lionfish Entertainment Rebecca Leon, CEO and founder of Friends at Work Ty Stiklorius, and CEO of SEVEN20 Dean Wilson.
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According to a press release, the task force is meant to be focused on making a change in the industry, operating independently with balanced perspectives. "I'm honored to lead such an esteemed group of visionaries who possess the experience and passion needed to drive real change in building a more inclusive and equitable music community," Tchen said in the release. "This is an important first step made possible by the Recording Academy's leadership, which recognizes the benefit of examining these issues with fresh eyes."
In the release, the Academy revealed the the purview of the task force will be broad, including a review of "operations and policies across the areas of corporate governance, hiring and promotion, membership, awards, and the Grammy Awards telecast."
In short: the televised awards may look a lot different next year.
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