Grammys Name First Female President After 62 Years


After 62 years of male leadership, the group behind the Grammy Awards has named its first female CEO.

Deborah Dugan, the former head of AIDS nonprofit (RED), has been appointed the new president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, the organization announced Wednesday.

“I’m honored, humbled, and ready,” Dugan said in a statement this week. “The goal of the Recording Academy is to support, encourage, and advocate for those within the music community. I will listen to and champion all of those individuals, and lead this iconic organization into the future. I’m excited to get started.”

The Grammys has faced backlash for its lack of female representation, causing the hashtag, #GrammysSoMale, to gain traction on Twitter during the 2018 ceremony. That year, men received nine out of the 10 top awards with Canadian singer-songwriter Alessia Cara being the only woman to take home the title for a major category as Best New Artist.

Responding to critics, the Academy’s current president, Neil Portnow, told Variety that women need “to step up because I think they would be welcome.”

He added that while he doesn’t “have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face,” he felt it was “upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”

Female entertainment executives then slammed Portnow, demanding his resignation with a letter that called his remarks “a slap in the face to women.” Among the signatures was Pharrell’s manager, Caron Veazey. Pop artist Pink also spoke out on Twitter, rebuking Portnow with a handwritten letter of her own, which was applauded by Katy Perry and Charli XCX.

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At the 2019 Grammys last February, Dua Lipa referenced Portnow’s comments in her acceptance speech for best new artist, stating, “I guess this year we really stepped up.”

Dugan will formally begin her new role in the Academy at the start of August.

In a statement published by Billboard, Bono, the U2 frontman who co-founded (RED) with activist Bobby Shriver in 2006, praised Dugan’s work on the initiative.

“We’ll miss Deb at (RED), but after helping the team raise more than $600 million for the fight against AIDS, she’ll always be part of the (RED) band and I look forward to seeing what she’ll do in her new role, cracking the ceiling and helping the Recording Academy crack open a new future in the process,” he said.

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