This week, the Recording Academy announced it had hired Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Tina Tchen, as its “diversity consultant.”
The Academy had announced previously that it intended to form an independent task force to address female advancement in the music industry, and is gathering 15-20 staffers to comprise the team. Billboard reported that the task force will focus on female inclusion and diversity issues; Billboard quoted the Academy saying that the task force will discern "the various barriers and unconscious biases faced by underrepresented communities throughout the music industry and, specifically, across Recording Academy operations and policies,” which will examine governance, hiring and promotion practices, membership, awards and the Grammys telecast.
The task force was initiated largely as a reaction to Academy President Neil Portnoy’s comment that women needed to “step up” after complaints were made that too few Grammys had been won by women.
Portnow lauded the choice of Tchen, asserting, "The fact that she lacks business ties to the music industry ensures her objectivity as chair. 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. Tina Tchen is an accomplished advocate for women and impact-oriented leader versed in convening disparate stakeholders for a common purpose."
Tchen currently heads the Chicago office of the Buckley Sandler LLP law firm, counseling companies on gender inequity, sexual harassment and lack of diversity.