On April 30 the recording academy announced that Valeisha Butterfield Jones will fill a newly created position in the organization: Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, who will report directly to academy chair and interim president and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. as of May 11. She will join the executive team to make sure “diversity and inclusion are core to business values and standards,” according to the press release.
Butterfield Jones previously worked as the head of inclusion for Google and was also the youth vote director for the Obama for America campaign and then worked in public affairs for the Obama administration’s Department of Commerce. She also founded Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, which promoted positive portrayals of women in the entertainment industry.
But she may have her work cut out for her at the recording academy, which has been in hot water in recent years for how their awards have treated female artists and hip-hop artists. Former academy president Neil Portnow notoriously told women to “step up” if they wanted recognition. And his replacement, reformer Deborah Dugan, was abruptly removed after only a few months in the position, after which she alleged vote-rigging by the organization as well as other forms of misconduct. Will this be a step in the right direction for the organization?
The academy’s diversity and inclusion task force suggested the creation of this position, and the head of that task force, Tina Tchen, said of the decision in an official statement, “It’s imperative that the music industry continue to make strides toward a more equitable and inclusive industry, and I am pleased to see the recording academy take this important step toward change within its own walls today by appointing Valeisha Butterfield Jones as its first-ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. 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.”
Butterfield Jones herself said, “The recording academy has an opportunity and responsibility to ensure that diversity and inclusion is embedded in its core values. I’m deeply honored to join the academy as we enter a new chapter of transformational growth, leadership and change. During this unprecedented time in world history, together we will double-down on our focus to drive systemic change and equitable outcomes for underrepresented communities and creators.”
Mason added, “We are thrilled to welcome Valeisha Butterfield Jones into the recording academy family. Valeisha has been a force in driving systemic change and enhancing equal opportunities for underrepresented groups across entertainment, technology and politics. 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. We are so fortunate to have Valeisha’s leadership in this crucial area.”
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