Today, the Grammys announced the creation of an independent task force to address biases against women in the music industry.
This news comes in the wake of Recording Academy president Neil Portnow’s response to claims of sexism at the Grammys, in which he said “women need to step up.” Portnow has since walked back those comments, saying, “Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make. Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced.”
All of the televised awards on last Sunday’s Grammy Awards went to men, except Alessia Cara, who won Best New Artist, and only 11 of the total 84 awards went to women.
Portnow has now issued a new statement and announced the creation of an independent task force to address sexism in the music industry:
After hearing from many friends and colleagues, I understand the hurt that my poor choice of words following last Sunday’s GRAMMY telecast has caused. I also now realize that it’s about more than just my words. Because those words, while not reflective of my beliefs, echo the real experience of too many women. I’d like to help make that right.
The Recording Academy is establishing an independent task force to review every aspect of what we do as an organization and identify where we can do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community. We will also place ourselves under a microscope and tackle whatever truths are revealed.
I appreciate that the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed in our industry, and share in the urgency to attack it head on. We as an organization, and I as its leader, pledge our commitment to doing that. We will share more information about the steps we are taking in the coming weeks.
Several female figures in the music industry have called for Portnow to step down in an open letter addressed to Portnow, published by Billboard on Thursday. The letter called Portnow’s “step up” comment “wrong and insulting and, at its core, oblivious to the vast body of work created by and with women.”
After highlighting several statistics that back up claims of sexism in the industry, the powerful letter concludes:
We are here not to merely reprimand you, but to shed light on why there is such an outcry over your comments and remind you of the challenges that women face in our country and, specifically, in the music industry. Your comments are another slap in the face to women, whether intended or not; whether taken out of context, or not. Needless to say, if you are not part of the solution, then you must accept that YOU are part of the problem. Time’s up, Neil.
The Grammys have also responded to claims of bias against hip-hop and according to Billboard, the Academy’s Board of Trustees is currently finalizing more ways to improve its membership. Though hip-hop artists had garnered an encouraging amount of nominations going into this year’s awards, the winners did not reflect that, despite the genre’s sky-rocketing popularity.