Update: Recording Academy President Neil Portnow issued an apologetic statement, Billboard reports, after he said women in music needed to “step up” if they wanted to be acknowledged at the Grammy Awards.
“Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make,” he said. “Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced … I regret that I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought. I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.”
Pink, Sheryl Crow and other artists criticized Recording Academy President and chief executive Neil Portnow on Monday after he issued a comment that seemed to partially blame female artists for their near-shutout in major categories at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards show. The only woman to win in the general categories was Alessia Cara, who took home the Best New Artist honor, and just 11 out of 84 awards in total went to women.
Speaking with Variety about the Grammys’ gender imbalance following the ceremony, Portnow said, “women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level … [They need] to step up, because I think they would be welcome.”
“I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face,” he continued, “but I think it’s upon us – us as an industry – to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”
“Women in music don’t need to ‘step up,'” Pink retorted in a note posted 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.”
“Ugh bout 2 step up on 2 ur face,” Charli XCX added on Twitter. “Women are making amazing music right now. Wtf is this dude talking about?”
Sheryl Crow called for the Grammys to return to gender-specific awards – these were eliminated in 2011 as part of a category overhaul – to ensure that female artists get their due at the awards ceremony. “I wish the Grammys would return to female/male categories,” she tweeted. “Who will young girls be inspired by to pick up a guitar and rock, when most every category is filled with men? I’m not sure it is about women needing to ‘step up,’ (as said by the male in charge).”
The male-skew of the latest Grammys is not a new phenomenon. A study released in January by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative suggested that more than 90 percent of Grammy nominees were male between 2013 and 2018.
Watch below: A recap of the best and worst moments of the 2018 Grammy Awards.