“Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced,” he said. “We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor and empower them. Our community will be richer for it.
“I regret that I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought,” Mr. Portnow added. “I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer and more representative place for everyone.”
Concerns over gender diversity in the industry were brought to the forefront just before the Grammys, with the release of a report by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. The report found that of the 899 people nominated in the last six Grammy Awards, just 9 percent were women. And in analyzing the top Billboard songs from 2012 to 2017, the group reported that women made up only 12 percent of songwriters and 2 percent of producers.
Helienne Lindvall, a songwriter and former columnist for The Guardian, where she wrote about the changing music industry, said in an interview that women in the business need to be not only encouraged, but promoted. “When I look at the generation coming up, there are women in more technical positions, like remixers and producers,” she said. “We need to show that it is not a strange thing for a woman to be a producer.”
The diversity report’s stark statistics were borne out at Sunday’s ceremony, when Alessia Cara became the only woman to collect her own trophy on stage, for best new artist. (Rihanna won as a featured artist on the Kendrick Lamar song “Loyalty.”) Lorde, the only woman nominated for album of the year, which ultimately went to Bruno Mars, did not perform or appear onstage. And the televised category featuring the most female nominees, best pop solo performance, went to Ed Sheeran, who was not present, over Pink, Lady Gaga, Kesha and Kelly Clarkson.
George Howard, an associate professor of music business and management at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, said in an interview that the music industry could be seen as “a microcosm of our country”: “Any institution that is founded upon a firmament of endemic racism and misogyny ultimately crumbles,” he said.
“The institution of the Grammys has to have its day of reckoning,” he added. “But more importantly, the music industry itself has to have its day of reckoning.”