A year after ‘step up’ flap, Recording Academy addresses gender imbalance with new initiative

Katy Perry performs at the Hollywood Bowl in 2018. The singer has signed on in support of a sweeping Recording Academy inclusion initiative.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

The Recording Academy has announced a sweeping inclusion initiative focused on correcting gender inequity in the music industry.

It’s the first public display from the association, which administers the Grammy Awards, on an issue that was stirred up last year when academy President Neil Portnow said women in the music business needed to “step up” to succeed. His comments followed a 2018 study from USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. According to the Recording Academy, the USC study found that across popular music only 2% of music producers and 3% of engineers or mixers are women.

The initiative calls for those in charge of bringing on producers and engineers to commit to a hire “only after considering a slate of candidates that includes at least two women.”


It also advises that producers take gender into account when mentoring young professionals. As a way to calculate success, the academy will create a web presence devoted to “facilitating the process of identifying working female producers and engineers.”

Those signing on to support the initiative include Cardi B, Common, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, John Legend, Shawn Mendes, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and others. Signees also include all the major labels and many of the most prominent independent imprints.

In a statement, Tina Tchen, an attorney who chairs the Recording Academy’s task force on inclusion and diversity, said, “The music industry is at a crossroads and progress won’t happen on its own. There is no magic bullet to shift a status quo that has existed for centuries, but we see this initiative as an important step.”

The initiative comes at a time when an inclusion movement is sweeping through the entertainment business. At the Academy Awards ceremony in March, actress Frances McDormand accepted her Oscar by stating, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”

Since then actors including Michael B. Jordan, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina King and others have committed to even the playing field.

The music industry, though, has been slow to act, as evidenced by the long-discussed accusations against R&B singer R. Kelly and the buzz surrounding the forthcoming HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” about two of Michael Jackson’s sexual-abuse accusers.


The Recording Academy established a task force last March and has been moving toward the initiative.

In a statement, pop singer Katy Perry said she supported the inclusion initiative.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my career to surround myself with powerful female figures,” she said. “I’m proud to have a female engineer run my own Unsub Studios. I pledge to support this great initiative to provide even more opportunity to talented female producers and engineers.”

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: