Female Executives Demand Resignation Of Grammy Chief Who Told Women To 'Step Up'

"We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time," they wrote.

A group of high-powered women signed an open letter calling for Recording Academy President Neil Portnow to resign.

Powerful women within the entertainment industry, including Pharrell’s manager Caron Veazey, are pushing for Portnow to leave his position as a result of his offensive comments toward female artists after the Grammy Awards.

Responding to criticism that women had few solo performances during the show and only one had won a Grammy this year, Portnow said women had to “step up.”

“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 … [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome,” Portnow told Variety after the awards.

Portnow later said his words were taken out of context, but the comments have sparked backlash across the industry. Multiple Grammy-winner Pink posted a handwritten letter slamming Portnow’s comments on Twitter.

“Women OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this,” the singer wrote.

And now, women are “stepping up and stepping in” to demand Portnow’s resignation.

“We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time,” the wrote. “The fact that you don’t realize this means it’s time for you to step down.”

Read the full letter below.

Dear Mr. Neil Portnow,

The statement you made this week about women in music needing to “step up” was spectacularly wrong and insulting and, at its core, oblivious to the vast body of work created by and with women. Your attempt to backpedal only emphasizes your refusal to recognize us and our achievements. Your most recent remarks do not constitute recognition of women’s achievements, but rather a call for men to take action to “welcome” women. We do not await your welcome into the fraternity. We do not have to sing louder, jump higher or be nicer to prove ourselves.

We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time. The fact that you don’t realize this means it’s time for you to step down.

Today we are stepping up and stepping in to demand your resignation.

The stringent requirements for members of NARAS to vote reflect the distorted, unequal balance of executives and creators in our industry. There is simply not enough opportunity and influence granted or accessible to women, people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ. We can continue to be puzzled as to why the Grammys do not fairly represent the world in which we live, or we can demand change so that all music creators and executives can flourish no matter their gender, color of their skin, background or sexual preference.

Let’s take a look some facts, most of which are courtesy of a recent report on Inclusion in Popular Music from USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism division :

In 2017, 83.2% of artists were men and 16.8% were women, a 6 year low for female artists.

A total of 899 individuals were nominated for a Grammy Award between 2013 and 2018. A staggering 90.7% of these nominees were male and 9.3% were female.

10% of nominees for Record of the Year across a 6 year sample were female.

Over the last six years, zero women have been nominated as producer of the year.

Of the 600 top songs in 2017, of the 2,767 songwriters credited, 87.7% were male and 12.3% were female.

The top nine male songwriters claim almost 1/5th (19.2%) of the songs in the 6 year sample.

The gender ratio of male producers to female producers is 49 to 1.

Only 2 of 651 producers were females from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.

42% of artists were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.

The top male writer has 36 credits, the top female writer has 15 credits.

Of the newly released Billboard Power 100, 18% were women.

In publishing history, there has been only 1 female CEO and 1 male of color CEO. They currently hold these positions.

The position of President of a Label, is currently only held by one woman of color.


We are here not to merely reprimand you, but to shed light on why there is such an outcry over your comments and remind you of the challenges that women face in our country and, specifically, in the music industry. Your comments are another slap in the face to women, whether intended or not; whether taken out of context, or not. Needless to say, if you are not part of the solution, then you must accept that YOU are part of the problem.

Time’s up, Neil.


Marcie Allen, MAC Presents

Gillian Bar, Carroll Guido & Groffman, LLP

Renee Brodeur, Tmwrk

Rosemary Carroll, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP

Kristen Foster, PMK-BNC

Jennifer Justice, Superfly Presents

Renee Karalian, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP

Cara Lewis, Cara Lewis Group

Corrie Christopher Martin, Paradigm Talent Agency

Natalia Nastaskin, UTA

Elizabeth Paw, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP

Carla Sacks, Sacks & Co.

Ty Stiklorius, Friends at Work

Lou Taylor, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group

Beka Tischker, Wide Eyed Entertainment

Marlene Tsuchii, CAA

Caron Veazey, Manager- Pharrell Williams

Katie Vinten, Warner Chappell

Marsha Vlasic, Artist Group International

Gita Williams, Saint Heron

Nicole Wyskoarko, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP

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