GRAMMYs President Defends Lack of Female Winners

The 2018 GRAMMYs has come and gone, without many female winners to show for it.

Alessia Cara, who won Best New Artist, was the only woman to be presented with an award during the live show on Sunday night, but according to Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, the onus is on female artists to “step up” to the plate.

“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,” he told reporters in the GRAMMY press room. “[They need] to step up, because I think they would be welcome.”

“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,” he continued, adding that 10-time GRAMMY winner Taylor Swift was “kind of off cycle” this year. “Hopefully we’ll see her next year.”

The awards show’s lack of female winners coincidentally came on a night when many women stood up against inequality and discrimination in the music industry. Stars walked the red carpet with white roses in support of those fighting sexual harassment, Kesha gave a moving performance of “Praying” with Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Andra Day and Bebe Rexha, and Janelle Monae delivered a touching speech about the Time’s Up movement.

Album of the Year nominee Lorde also showed off a poem by Jenny Holzer attached to the back of her dress, promising that “the apocalypse will blossom,” as a source told ET that she was the only Album of the Year nominee not to be asked to perform solo at the awards show.

“It’s not for me to talk about. I produce the TV show,” GRAMMY Awards executive producer Ken Ehrlich said backstage of the lack of female winners, adding that Lorde’s snub was due to a shortage of space during the show. “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.”

Best Country Album winner Chris Stapleton, meanwhile, appeared a bit frazzled by the question of women’s representation among this year’s GRAMMY winners.

“It’s always a hard thing to see things not go somebody’s way,” he expressed. “And equality is something we have to address on a lot of levels. I can’t really speak to how voters voted and what happened there, but there is a lot of great music being made by a lot of great women. That is the only thing I know and the awards don’t diminish the art in any way.”