The Recording Academy named Tina Tchen, a chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama, to head the effort after controversy over women’s low representation at the music industry’s latest awards.
Tchen is the co-leader of the legal defense fund of Time’s Up, a campaign launched in January by Hollywood women to combat sexual harassment across industries in the wake of dozens of abuse allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“The music industry faces numerous challenges — from combating long-held biases to making sure women are represented and respected within the community,” Tchen said in a statement.
Tchen heads of the Chicago office of law firm Buckley Sandler LLP. She had also led the White House Council on Women and Girls started by the Obama administration to incorporate female welfare into federal government decision-making.
A number of female artists voiced dismay that not more women won or were nominated at the January 28 Grammys, where funk revivalist Bruno Mars was the night’s big victor.
Adding fuel to the controversy, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, asked by a reporter why more women were not winning, said that female musicians needed to “step up.”
Portnow, who faced calls by female executives to resign, hailed Tchen’s appointment.
“In this moment, the Recording Academy can do more than reflect what currently exists; 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,” he said in a statement.
The Recording Academy said that the task force, whose other members are yet to be announced, will make recommendations on how better to bring in “under-represented communities,” including in the telecast gala and in deciding the awards themselves.