Grammys Chief Neil Portnow Announces Task Force to Aid 'Female Advancement' in Wake of Backlash
As female musicians continue to speak out against Neil Portnow’s “women need to step up” remark, he and the Recording Academy announced its new policy.
“After hearing from many friends and colleagues, I understand the hurt that my poor choice of words following last Sunday’s GRAMMY telecast has caused,” Portnow said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Thursday, following the #GrammysSoMale controversy.
“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 added.
Portnow’s comments on women needing to “step up” in the music business caused an uproar, and several musicians, including Pink, Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson, slammed the Grammys exec on social media as nearly 10,000 people — including celebrities — signing a petition demanding Portnow step down from his presidential/CEO post at the Recording Academy.
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“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,” Portnow said in his latest statement. “We will also place ourselves under a microscope and tackle whatever truths are revealed.”
Concluding, “I appreciate that the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed in our industry, and share in the urgency to attack it head-on. We as an organization, and I as its leader, pledge our commitment to doing that. We will share more information about the steps we are taking in the coming weeks.”
Amid the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, this year’s Grammy Awards were a male-dominated affair — despite women taking center stage with powerful messages about the need for equality and attendees showing solidarity with victims of sexual harassment and assault by wearing white roses.
Men took home more gramophones during the CBS telecast with Alessia Cara (best new artist) and Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman (best country duo/group performance) among the very few women to win and have their acceptance speeches get airtime on the 60th annual show.
In the press room following the awards ceremony Sunday, Portnow told reporters: “It has to begin with 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 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.”
Portnow previously released a statement on Tuesday regarding his comments.
“Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s 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,” Portnow said.
“Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it,” Portnow’s statement continued.
The statement concluded: “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.
WATCH: Alessia Cara Among Only a Few Female Winners at Male-Dominated Grammys 2018
Despite Portnow’s attempt to walk back his comments, many high ranking women in the music industry are calling for his resignation from the Recording Academy. “We need a leader to think outside of the metaphorical box and start demanding all voices be heard,” reads a letter signed by 21 women, according to NBC News. Among the signatures are MAC Presents president Marcie Allen, attorney Rosemary Carroll, Marsha Vlasic of Artist Group International and Pharrell Williams’ manager Caron Veazey.
“Neil, if you do not have the necessary skill set, foresight and point of view to gracefully and courageously move this system forward to represent women, people of color and the LGBTQ community in a way that is not only revolutionary, but necessary, we ask that you step down,” it continues.