After Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said that female nominees need to “step up,” the Academy announced it would launch an independent task force to investigate its own gender bias. That task force now has a leader: the same woman running the Time’s Up initiative. Portnow has announced to Billboard that Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, will chair the task force. Tchen is also currently the administrator of the Time’s Up legal defense fund, which provides aid to victims of sexual misconduct in the workplace that was launched in response to the #MeToo movement. Tchen will lead a team of 15 to 20 people to restructure the Academy from top to bottom — including the Academy’s hiring practices, membership, and the awards show itself — to make it more inclusive.
Though there were reportedly some concerns about Tchen’s unfamiliarity with the music industry, Pornow claims that an outsider’s perspective will work to her advantage. “The fact that she lacks business ties to the music industry ensures her objectivity as chair,” he said in a statement. Tchen has not announced any specifics for the task force just yet, but it sounds like removing Portnow as president of the Academy, as some music execs have called for, is not on the agenda. She tells Billboard, ”More than any individual person, the most important thing is that we need to look systemically at these issues and work together on systemic change.” Tchen also warns that any meaningful change to the Academy might not be seen for another few Grammys “because we’re dealing with a broader cultural attitude around women, women in power and the quality of diversity.”