- The Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammy Awards, is continuing to take recommended steps toward inclusion. Valeisha Butterfield Jones will begin her position as its first chief diversity and inclusion officer May 11, the academy announced April 30.
- Butterfield Jones' appointment follows the December 2019 recommendation of the academy's Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to appoint a chief diversity and inclusion officer by May 1. Reporting directly to Academy Chair and Interim President/CEO Harvey Mason Jr., she will join the executive leadership team responsible for "ensuring that diversity and inclusion are core to business values and standards, and demonstrated throughout the organization," according to the academy.
- Butterfield Jones is a former global head of inclusion for Google, Inc. responsible for accelerating diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes across the global brand. Prior to joining Google, she served as deputy director of public affairs for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce under the Obama Administration, and has also served as the national director of diversity and inclusion for the Alzheimer's Association.
The Recording Academy's workplace culture has been in the spotlight after parting with Deborah Dugan, the first female president and CEO, in early March. Dugan began her position Aug. 1.
The board of trustees placed Dugan on administrative leave Jan. 16 pending an investigation of a "formal allegation of misconduct," the board said in a statement provided to Billboard. She was accused of acting in a hostile manner toward an executive assistant, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination complaint Dugan filed against the academy Jan. 21. She alleged "unlawful gender discrimination, sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation and unequal pay," her attorneys said in a statement.
In the complaint, Dugan said she was sexually harassed by Joel Katz, who is general counsel to the academy and a former member and chair of the board of trustees. She also alleged the rape of an unnamed female artist by the former CEO Neil Portnow. (Both Katz and Portnow have denied Dugan's allegations, according to Billboard.) Dugan also accused the academy's board of manipulating the Grammy nominations process. The academy sent a letter to its members March 2, obtained by Deadline, stating the board decided to dismiss Dugan citing the two independent investigations in regard to allegations made against her. Dugan had "consistent management deficiencies and failures," the academy said. In response to her firing, Dugan said in a statement to The New York Times that she was "disappointed" but "not surprised."
‘Issues of diversity are mission-critical'
The academy created a diversity and inclusion task force in March 2018 to examine issues of diversity and inclusion internally, and within the broader music community, according to the group's Dec. 12, 2019, report. President and CEO of Time's Up Tina Tchen is chair of the task force. The members include academics, artists and industry experts such as Debra Lee, the chair and CEO Emeritus of BET Networks; Stacy Smith, Ph.D., the founder and director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative; and Grammy Award-winning artist Common.
"While the task force was initially formed in response to concerns about the underrepresentation of women in the industry, throughout our work we deliberately sought to make sure we were intersectional in our approach, and applied a broad lens that included groups that were underrepresented in terms of race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ and disability, in addition to gender and gender identity," the members said in the report. One of the more than 10 recommendations made by the task force included creating the position of chief diversity and inclusion officer who is "responsible for enterprise wide diversity and inclusion efforts" and reports directly to the president and CEO of the academy, according to the report.
Tchen said in a statement that she's pleased with Butterfield Jones' appointment. "It's imperative that the music industry continue to make strides toward a more equitable and inclusive industry," Tchen said. "Creating this executive-level position was a principal recommendation of our task force because it is one significant way the academy can demonstrate that issues of diversity are mission-critical and will be prioritized in the future."
The organization is fortunate to have Butterfield Jones' leadership, Mason said. "Valeisha has been a force in driving systemic change and enhancing equal opportunities for underrepresented groups across entertainment, technology and politics," he said in a statement. "I'm excited to work with her to continue evolving the Recording Academy as an organization that represents our music community and a place where all voices are welcomed, supported and nurtured."