The Recording Academy, who host the Grammy Awards, are stepping up. The group's board of trustees have appointed the Academy's first ever woman President and CEO, Deborah Dugan, who will assume the role on 1st August. That's right, the Recording Academy, which was founded in 1957, just appointed its first woman leader. It took 62 years, but finally — it happened.
Dugan has a long history in and connections with the music industry, having served as the president of Disney Publishing worldwide and executive vice president of the EMI Group/Angel Records. Most recently, she was the CEO of (Red), the AIDS nonprofit co-founded by Bono (yeah, from U2) and activist Bobby Shriver.
Her appointment follows the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, headed by Tina Tchen, who instituted a series of reforms, including inviting hundreds of new voting members from underrepresented populations, that were aimed at diversifying the nominees in 2019 and beyond.
Dugan replaces the outgoing, longtime Academy President and CEO, Neil Portnow, who announced he would be resigning last June. Portnow infamously suggested women needed to "step up" following questions after the 2018 ceremony as to why so few women were nominated for awards and given performance slots in the telecast. Protests and calls for his resignation and firing came from all over the music industry, from women who serve as the heads of record labels, management firms, publishing houses, and artists. Rather than pushing the issue and firing him, the Academy allowed Portnow to announce he would relinquish the position after serving for another year and a half and allowed him to preside over the 2019 Grammys.
"Why is he being afforded such an elegant departure, and why did it take so long to get him out? Yet another frustrating example of women not being considered or supported. Nevertheless I am thrilled the Academy finally did the right thing, and he is kneeling down. About bloody time," Shirley Manson, the lead singer of Garbage, told Refinery29 at the time Portnow's resignation was announced.
"The goal of the Recording Academy is to support, encourage, and advocate for those within the music community," Dugan said in a statement released by the Recording Academy. "I will listen to and champion all of those individuals, and lead this iconic organisation into the future. I'm excited to get started."