The Recording Academy has appointed Deborah Dugan as its new president and CEO, Variety reports. She will take the place of Neil Portnow, who will step down in July after helming the organization since 2002.
Dugan comes to the Recording Academy following her role as CEO for (RED), the nonprofit cofounded by Bono and Bobby Shriver. She began her career as an attorney on Wall Street and has also served as an executive VP at EMI and as president of Disney Publishing Worldwide.
“Music and social justice are no strangers — in fact, they can work in perfect harmony,” Bono said in a statement following the announcement. “We’ll miss Deb at (RED), but after helping the team raise more than $600 million for the fight against AIDS, she’ll always be part of the (RED) band and I look forward to seeing what she’ll do in her new role, cracking the ceiling and helping the Recording Academy crack open a new future in the process.”
Dugan is the first female president of the Recording Academy since its official inception in 1957. Her appointment follows a contentious period for the Grammys presenters. The Grammys have been criticized for its lack of diversity concerning nominees and winners and a study released in 2018 highlighted the gender disparity.
In 2017, Adele’s win over Beyoncé for Album of the Year resurfaced a long-running critique that the organization lacked racial diversity in its nominees and categories. The following year, Portnow was specifically called out by a number of artists for a comment that seemed to partially blame female artists for the lack of women in major categories. He announced a task force for “female advancement” and apologized, which was followed by a call for his resignation by a number of female industry executives. In May 2018, Portnow announced that he would step down from his position.
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In an interview with journalists following the announcement of Dugan’s appointment on Wednesday, she was asked about how much influence the Academy would have in addressing institutional gender and racial biases. Portnow has previously said the Academy doesn’t control the music that’s created or who is hired in most of the industry.
“I think all the issues that Neil [has mentioned] led to an important larger conversation and that is the conversation of course that we will have, about women and diversity in music, and where we take it and how we use this platform to affect positive change is very important to me,” Dugan said via Variety. “That’s one of the questions I’m most excited to answer in this job.”
Dugan takes over as the Recording Academy’s CEO and president on August 1st.