The Recording Academy has tapped Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, to lead a new task force to explore charges of gender and racial bias that erupted after this year's Grammy Awards ceremony.
"The music industry faces numerous challenges – from combating long-held biases to making sure women are represented and respected within the community," said Tchen, who currently heads the Chicago office of the Buckley Sander LLP law firm, in a statement issued Tuesday.
"This task force is an important initial step by the Recording Academy to demonstrate its commitment to tackling these challenges in a comprehensive way," she said. "I am honored to partner with them in this effort and look forward to working with members of the task force as we look to make the music industry a diverse and inclusive community for all."
At Buckley Sandler, Tchen advises companies on gender inequity, sexual harassment and diversity issues. She served in the White House as executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
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"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," Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said in the same statement.
Portnow was lambasted following the 2018 Grammy Awards for a comment he made saying it was time for women to "step up" to receive better representation in the music industry and during the annual awards ceremony.
A recent University of Southern California study showed that only 9.3 percent of nominees in the top Grammy categories over the past five years went to women, the other 90.7 percent singling out male recording artists, songwriters, producers and engineers.
"Tina Tchen is an accomplished advocate for women and impact-oriented leader versed in convening disparate stakeholders for a common purpose," Portnow said. "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."
In the wake of the criticism from many female and male musicians and others in the industry, as well as rank-and-file music fans, the Recording Academy vowed to assemble a task force to identify problems and seek solutions.
"The task force will identify the various barriers and unconscious biases faced by underrepresented communities throughout the music industry and, specifically, across Recording Academy operations and policies," according to its charter. "In an effort to determine pathways toward greater parity at every level of the organization, the task force will look specifically at Recording Academy governance, hiring and promotion practices, membership, awards and telecast."
Academy officials said they will complete the formation of the task force in the coming weeks and then move forward "to deliver a series of recommendations to the Recording Academy in the months ahead."