January 23, 2020
Women dominate this year’s Grammy nominations, but industry gender parity is still a world away. Here’s how progress might look
Still a boys club: dont fall for the hype that the music industry has changed
The 2020 Grammys almost made it over the finish line without controversy. The nominees for this Sunday’s ceremony boasted unprecedented gender equality. With Lizzo, Lil Nas X and HER among the most garlanded nominees, it would be untarnished by the #GrammysSoWhite criticisms of recent years. The Recording Academy was set to stride confidently into its new future, having publicly addressed its longstanding issues around representation. Two years ago, CEO Neil Portnow said women should “step up” if they wanted recognition: the resulting outcry led him to step down, and he was replaced by Deborah Dugan. Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Tina Tchen, led a taskforce on diversity and inclusion. In December, it published 18 recommendations; the academy promised to implement all but one.
Here was a rare music industry model of accountability and reform – until last weekend. After the academy fired Dugan, citing allegations of misconduct including bullying, she filed a 44-page discrimination complaint alleging that she had been sexually harassed by an academy lawyer and a former trustee. She said that Portnow faces a rape allegation, alleged corruption and racial discrimination, and stated that such behaviour was made possible by the academy’s “‘boys’ club’ mentality and approach to governance”. Portnow denies the claims; the academy said Dugan “never raised these grave allegations” during her five-month tenure.
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