Grammys president made a poor choice of words when discussing women at its awards night.

Note to Grammy president Neil Portnow: When you’re the chief of an organisation facing backlash for failing to promote women, maybe don’t suggest those women just need to “step up”.

Portnow, along with the Recording Academy he represents, has been at the centre of criticism over the distinct lack of women on the Grammy winners list this year. Many were also puzzled as to why sole female Best Album nominee Lorde was not asked to give a solo performance on the night like all her male counterparts.

Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team explain what the Time’s Up movement actually does. (Post continues.)

In response, Portnow made a statement to Variety about the things he thought needed to change in order for the Grammys’ dismal record of female winners to be improved.

He did suggest the industry could do more to roll out the “welcome mat”, but his first point was the tired old excuse that women just need to try harder, and the opportunities will come, which by now we all should know, isn’t reality.

“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,” he told the publication.

“I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s 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.”


Naturally, this response was not well received by those who believe women in the music industry “stepping up” isn’t the problem – or the solution.

In a handrwitten note posted to Twitter, Pink suggested the real need is to recognise the women who do step up.

“Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’ – women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this,” she wrote.

“When we celebrate and honour the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women STEP UP every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair.”

Artist Charli XCX also rolled her eyes at the Academy’s stance.

And in response to her own part of the controversy, Lorde directed people who doubted her – including the Grammys organisers – to catch her during her upcoming tour.

And if you’re still wondering why Lorde wasn’t allowed to perform solo, well Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich just can’t tell you.

“I don’t know if it was a mistake. These shows are a matter of choices. We have a box and it gets full. She had a great album. There’s no way we can really deal with everybody.”

That sums up the Academy’s attitude to women quite well, don’t you think?