In March, the Recording Academy announced that Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff and a founding member of the Time’s Up movement, would lead its newly formed Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. One of her first initiatives, announced on Thursday, is to invite 900 new members to join the academy, specifically members who are women, people of color, under the age of 39, or some combination of the three. Her recommendation to diversify the body’s voting members was based on findings about its current demographics, where only 21 percent of voting members are female, and only 28 percent are people of color.
The task force was formed shortly after Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, came under scrutiny for his comment that women in the music industry should “step up” if they want to be involved in the industry and advance in their careers. Portnow will step down in 2019, but Tchen told Billboard that the task force is not involved in hiring his replacement and that the invitations to new voting members were just “a first step.”
“We hope to work with the Academy in the coming months to do it again next year in a more organized way,” she said. “But we wanted to do [it] right away to affect this year’s awards season.” Those who decide to join before Nov. 15 will be able to vote for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, which will take place on Feb. 10.