Skeptical as the music industry might’ve been at first about Recording Academy’s newly organized Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion, the group has made strides in the year of its existence. In the fall, the task force invited 900 music creators to join the voting community. On Friday, it announced an initiative to boost the number of female producers and engineers in the industry, with over 200 artists — including Ariana Grande, Cardi B, Common, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, John Legend and Keith Urban — signing on.
The initiative, according to a press release, “calls on any entity or individual responsible for or involved in selecting and hiring producers and engineers to commit to making hiring decisions only after considering a slate of candidates that includes at least two women,” and provides a website linking to resources for music-makers in search of female candidates for those roles. It also asks producers already in the industry to “take gender diversity challenges in music’s technical fields into account” when weighing individuals for promotion and mentorship.
“There is no magic bullet to shift a status quo that has existed for centuries, but we see this initiative as an important step,” Tiny Tchen, chair of the task force and former chief of staff to Michelle Obama, said in the release. “We aren’t here to tell anyone who to hire, but we have seen repeatedly that the simple act of making sure diverse candidates are always seen and considered makes it more likely that women will get the opportunities they previously have been denied.”
Tchen, like other executives at the organization who’ve spoken about the task force in the past, called such an idea “overdue.” The founding supporters of the initiative comprise a number of artist management companies and agencies; producers including Jack Antonoff, Diplo, Quincy Jones, Max Martin, Linda Perry, The Chainsmokers, and Pharrell Williams; labels including Columbia, Big Machine, Epic, Glassnote, Def Jam, RCA; and artists including 2 Chainz, Brandi Carlile, Chance the Rapper, Selena Gomez, Sharon Van Etten, Post Malone, Maroon 5, and Halsey, in addition to those aforementioned. The majority of artists and producers are supporters of the initiative alone, though several (Cam, Common, Andra Day, Jimmy Jam, TRAKGIRL) are members of the parent task force as well.
Such an initiative comes amid broader industry tension around gender issues like sexual harassment and job discrimination, as events like Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary bring them more into public conversation. Exiting Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said in his remarks accompanying the Grammy nomination announcements a few weeks ago that “reflection and reevaluation” around industry diversity have been priorities of the organization in the past year. “They don’t have a start and a finish. We’ve begun, and I think there’s always more to do,” said Portnow, who will host his final Grammy Awards next Sunday.