Tina Tchen, a co-founder of Time’s Up and chief of staff to former First Lady Michelle Obama, will helm the Recording Academy’s task force on gender bias in the music industry, Billboard reports.
Tchen will lead a 15- to 20-person team focused on identifying “the various barriers and unconscious biases faced by underrepresented communities throughout the music industry and, specifically, across Recording Academy operations and policies.” Among the issues the task force will examine are hiring and promotion practices, Recording Academy membership and governance and the Grammys telecast.
The Recording Academy announced it would form the task force to address gender bias and diversity after the 2018 Grammys. The awards show was criticized after only one woman – Alessia Cara – won a trophy during the televised broadcast, while Lorde, the only female artist nominated for Album of the Year, was not offered a chance to perform solo. When asked about this criticism, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said women needed to “step up,” though he later said he regretted the comment. On top of all that, just days before the Grammys, researchers at USC released a damning report detailing how vastly underrepresented women are in popular music. (The Recording Academy later countered the study.)
In an interview with Billboard, Tchen said, “The music industry is one of many industries in which these exact issues are being called out and discussed in a way and with a vigor that hasn’t happened before. I’m really glad to see that. More than any individual person, the most important thing is that we need to look systemically at these issues and work together on systemic change. It takes everyone in a company, everyone in an institution, everyone in an industry to pull together to make these changes happen.”
While some in the music industry had reportedly hoped that a record executive would lead the task force, Portnow said Tchen’s lack of ties to the industry made her an ideal choice. “In this moment, the Recording Academy can do more than reflect what currently exists,” he said. “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.”
Along with serving as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Tchen also worked as the executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. She is a partner at a Chicago law firm where she advises companies on gender inequality, sexual harassment and lack of diversity. She also helped start the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which aims to assist victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.