Can Michelle Obama's former chief of staff solve the Grammys female problem?

The Recording Academy has ...

Posted: Mar 6, 2018 5:51 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2018 5:51 PM

The Recording Academy has appointed former first lady Michelle Obama's chief of staff Tina Tchen to chair the organization's task force on female inclusion, which will be made up of about 15 to 20 members.

Tchen worked with the academy during her time at the White House through the "In Performance" music series and told Billboard that she was approached by Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow to take on this role.

"Tina Tchen is an accomplished advocate for women and impact-oriented leader versed in convening disparate stakeholders for a common purpose," Portnow said in a statement released Tuesday. "In addition, the fact that she lacks business ties to the music industry ensures her objectivity as Chair."

The news comes weeks after Portnow sparked backlash in January for his response to criticism that the vast majority of Grammy winners this year were male.

"I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level to step up," Portnow said at the time, appearing to place the blame on female musicians.

His comments infuriated several female executives and artists, including Pink, Sheryl Crow and Charli XCX.

"Women in music don't need to 'step up' - women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also steppin aside. Women OWNED music this year," Pink wrote in an Instagram post. "They've been KILLING IT. And every year before this. 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, and what it looks like to be fair."

This prompted an apology from the academy's president and a commitment to establish a task force to tackle the issue of female representation.

Tchen, who also worked on the former first lady's "Let Girls Learn" initiative and served as executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said the fact that she's not a music industry insider is both a "blessing and a curse."

"It's probably both a blessing and a curse here in the sense that I come to this as a music fan but not a music industry insider," she told Billboard. "But I know these issues very well in lots of other contexts. I think that was viewed as an opportunity to be able to work with all different aspects of the music industry without any particular relationship to any of them."

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