The Recording Academy announced today that Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama, will chair their task force on inclusion and diversity. In a press release announcing her appointment, the Academy outlined what the task force will be charged with, and its duties are broad and sweeping.
"As part of its charter, 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," it reads. Additionally, "the task force will look specifically at Recording Academy governance, hiring and promotion practices, membership, awards, and telecast," putting all levels of leadership within the Academy under the task force's scrutiny.
In a note to their members, sent on February 15, the Academy confirmed they were putting this task force together and encouraged everyone to read the Annenberg Institute's study on representation in music. In that unsigned note, the Academy wrote, "But it’s not enough to reflect the community. We must be leaders in moving our industry toward greater inclusion and representation. Women are 50% of our world. We need their voice and presence at every level." Sources at the Academy and in the music industry have confirmed to Refinery29 that outreach had already begun after the Grammy awards this year to invite more women into the Academy's voting and governing bodies.
After her job with Obama, Tchen, who is a lawyer and specializes in advising on gender inequity, sexual harassment, and lack of diversity, has been at work helping to establish the Time's Up legal defense fund. While at the White House, Tchen was director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, reviewing government policy and programs to make sure it included the needs of women and girls.
"The music industry faces numerous challenges — from combatting long-held biases to making sure women are represented and respected within the community," Tchen said in the press release. "This task force is an important initial step by the Recording Academy to demonstrate its commitment to tackling these challenges in a comprehensive way. 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."
The Recording Academy has been forced to evaluate their representation for women after the Grammy awards this year were lambasted for only giving an award to one woman on the air, not offering equal performance time to the singular female Album of the Year nominee Lorde, and when Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow responded to questions about the Academy's commitment to representation for women by saying that women needed to "step up."
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