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Recording Academy Announces Members of Task Force for Female Advancement

Tina Tchen, chair of the Recording Academy’s newly formed task force on diversity and inclusion, announced the names of the 16 members joining her in examining barriers and biases affecting women and other underrepresented voices in the music industry and, specifically, the Recording Academy, according to an announcement from the organization.

The members — which span several musical genres and include artists, label and publishing executives, managers, a television executive and television journalist, as well as the founder of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which was cited in studies of diversity in the music industry — comprise 13 women and three men. 

The announcement comes in the wake of a torrent of criticism after January’s Grammy Awards due to the low representation of female artists in the show and for Academy chief Neil Portnow’s unfortunately-worded post-show comments to a Variety reporter that female artists and executives need to “step up” in order to get ahead in the music business. While Portnow clearly misspoke and later made efforts to walk back his comments, three different groups of music industry executivestwo of which were femaleposted letters criticizing him and the Academy. 

Since her appointment on March 6, Tchen has spent weeks “meeting with and listening to constituents across the music community, using that feedback to assemble a task force that is balanced in perspectives and interests to ensure that the group is independent and focused on making progress in the industry,” the announcement says. All members will volunteer their time and expertise, and none are employed by the Recording Academy or hold any position on its Board. The task force includes the following music creators, executives, academic scholars, and thought leaders in gender equality and diversity:

  • Stephanie Alexa, vice president of finance and licensing administration, ATO Records
  • Michele Anthony, executive vice president and executive management board member, Universal Music Group
  • Cam, Grammy-nominated artist
  • Common, Grammy-winning artist
  • Sheryl Crow, Grammy-winning artist
  • Andra Day, Grammy-nominated artist
  • Giselle Fernandez, award-winning television journalist
  • Jimmy Jam, Grammy-winning artist
  • Beth Laird, CEO and co-owner, Creative Nation
  • Debra Lee, chairman and CEO, BET Networks
  • Rebeca Leon, co-founder and CEO, Lionfish Entertainment
  • Elizabeth Matthews, CEO, ASCAP
  • Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder and director, USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative
  • Ty Stiklorius, founder and CEO, Friends At Work
  • Julie Swidler, executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel, Sony Music
  • Dean Wilson, CEO, SEVEN20

“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,” said Tchen. “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.”

The task force is set to meet shortly to begin its work with a review of Recording Academy operations and policies across the areas of corporate governance, hiring and promotion, membership, awards, and the Grammy Awards telecast.

“This is an extremely important initiative for us,” said John Poppo, Chair of the Recording Academy Board of Trustees. “The Board takes seriously any role the Recording Academy can play in serving our music community, and certainly one that could facilitate increased diversity and inclusion. We are inspired by the prospect of what this task force might accomplish, and we’re grateful to Tina and the group’s esteemed members for graciously agreeing to partner with us in this effort.”

“The Recording Academy prides itself on being a thoughtful organization, and is committed to being responsive to those we represent in the creative community,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “Today, there’s an opportunity for us to effect historic change in attitudes and practices within our industry. We embrace that opportunity in full. With a leader like Tina at the helm and a group of such high caliber, this task force is primed to have a meaningful impact on building a music community that is inclusive, welcoming, and open to all.”

Tchen currently heads the Chicago office of the Buckley Sandler LLP law firm, where she is a partner and leader in advising companies on gender inequity, sexual harassment, and lack of diversity. Most recently, she played an integral role in spearheading the formation of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal support to victims of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse in the workplace. During her tenure in the White House, Tchen was the executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, established by President Barack Obama to ensure that the needs of women and girls would be accounted for in the development of all government agency policies and programs.

She has no music industry background, which was intentional, Portnow said in a statement when her appointment was announced. “In this moment, the Recording Academy can do more than reflect what currently exists; we can help lead the industry into becoming the inclusive music community we want it to be—a responsibility that the Board and I take seriously, ” he said. “Tina Tchen is an accomplished advocate for women and impact-oriented leader versed in convening disparate stakeholders for a common purpose. In addition, the fact that she lacks business ties to the music industry ensures her objectivity as Chair. We are honored to have her at the helm, guiding the Academy and our industry toward a greater good for everyone involved.”

Incidentally, prior to joining the Obama administration, Tchen was a litigator at Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, a large firm at which the late Joseph Flom, father of Lava Records founder and longtime A&R exec Jason Flom, was a partner.

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