Recording Academy president Neil Portnow has announced the formation of a task force following criticism of comments he made as well as accusations of sexism during the Grammy awards ceremony, Variety reports. A call for Portnow’s resignation from female industry executives closely followed his announcement.
This year’s Grammys have been under scrutiny for the apparent lack of female nominees and winners during the awards ceremony, which included Lorde not performing (she was the only female nominee in the Album of the Year category and was reportedly the only one in the category to not be offered a solo performance slot). Of the eight awards broadcasted on television, Alessia Cara (Best New Artist) was the only woman to receive an award.
Following the ceremony, Variety queried Portnow about the gender inequity. His response included a remark that women in music need to “step up.” While he has expressed regret for the word choice, a number of artists have criticized his remarks, including Sheryl Crow, Charli XCX and Pink, who performed during the ceremony. “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up,'” Pink wrote on Twitter. “Women have been stepping up since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside … When we celebrate and honor the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women step up every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal.”
On Thursday, Portnow wrote a letter to address the issue, where he acknowledged his “poor choice of words” and the hurt that they 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,” he wrote via Variety. “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.”
Meanwhile, a group of female music senior executives – comprising agents, attorneys, promoters and band managers for acts such as Pharrell Williams and John Legend – composed a letter calling for Portnow’s resignation. “We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time,” the group said in a joint letter via Variety. “The fact that you don’t realize this means it’s time for you to step down.”