Success! Recording Academy President Who Told Women to ‘Step Up’ Will Step Down

During the 60-year history of the Grammy Awards, the vast majority of those golden gramophones have been handed out to male artists. Of the nearly 900 people nominated over the past five years, only nine percent were female.

This year was no different. The January telecast was, as Care2 writer Lauren Longo called it, “a sexist mess.” Only one of the top awards went to a woman — Alessia Cara for Best New Artist. Out of 84 awards, only 11 went to females, sparking the hashtag #GrammysSoMale.

You might think that Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, aka the Recording Academy, would offer an apology and have something encouraging to say about the academy’s need to recognize and honor more female artists. Like the title of Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning Best Rap Song, Portnow would be “Humble”.

But his response turned out to be more like “Damn,” the title of Lamar’s Grammy-winning Best Rap Album. According to Portnow, women artists and executives had only themselves to blame for being shut out.

“It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level,” he told Variety. “[They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome.”

Portnow is a former record company executive who’s been in the music industry for many years, but saying this proved he is completely tone deaf on this issue. Although he later backpedaled and said his comment was taken out of context, the backlash was immediate.

“Women have been stepping since the beginning of time,” Pink tweeted. “Stepping up, and also stepping aside.”

Sheryl Crow wished the Grammy awards would bring back separate categories for male and female artists. “I’m not sure it is about women needing to ‘step up’ (as said by the male in charge),” she tweeted.

A group of 21 senior female executives in the music industry sent Portnow a letter demanding his resignation. They called his remark “spectacularly wrong and insulting and, at its core, oblivious to the vast body of work created by and with women.”

More than 31,000 people signed a Care2 petition calling for Portnow to resign.

Finally, four months after his notorious “step up” comment, the Recording Academy has announced that Portnow will indeed be stepping down when his contract expires next year. Portnow has served as president since 2002, the longest tenure in the academy’s 60-year history.

Although the announcement praised Portnow and didn’t mention any specific reasons for his impending departure, you can bet the main one was the outrage over his “step up” comment.

Portnow was also recently accused of taking money from the academy’s MusiCares charity to pay for a deficit from this year’s Grammy telecast. MusiCares provides emergency funds to musicians and people in the music business for medical and living expenses.

Portnow will give his final speech as president during the Grammy Awards telecast next January. Perhaps this time around he’ll get it right and acknowledge that if anyone needs to step up, it’s him and the Recording Academy.

Photo credit: Lloyd Klein


Mia B
Mia B21 days ago


Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

thanks for posting

Ann B
Ann B6 months ago

Better top STEP OUT than DOWN!!!

Ruth R
Ruth R6 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Dave fleming
Past Member 7 months ago


Jennifer H
Jennifer H7 months ago

Finally a "step" in the right direction.

Ingrid A
Ingrid A7 months ago

thanks for the update

silja salonen
silja s7 months ago

peace and kindness

Angela J
Angela J7 months ago


ANA MARIJA R7 months ago

I thank myself and to other 31,776 active Care2 members... for the first encouraging news today :)