Deborah Dugan, who most recently served as CEO of (RED), the AIDS nonprofit co-founded by U2 singer Bono and activist Bobby Shriver, was named Wednesday president/CEO of the Recording Academy.
When she takes over the position Aug. 1, she will become the first woman to ever lead the academy, which presents the annual Grammy Awards. She will take over for Neil Portnow, who came under fire for comments he made last year in response to criticism about a lack of female nominees in top Grammy categories.
“I’m honored, humbled and ready,” Dugan said in a statement released by the Recording Academy. “The goal of the Recording Academy is to support, encourage and advocate for those within the music community. I will listen to and champion all of those individuals, and lead this iconic organization into the future. I’m excited to get started.”
John Poppo, chairman of the academy board, called Dugan a “highly accomplished business executive and a visionary leader who also brings to this role a great passion for the mission of the academy.”
In addition to her work with (RED), Dugan previously served as president of Disney Publishing Worldwide and executive vice president of EMI Records/Angel Records.
Portnow has been the academy’s president since 2002. He announced last May that he would step down when his contract expires this July.
He was widely criticized after the 2018 Grammys, when criticism arose about the lack of female representation in top award categories, and he responded that women need “to step up” to have a greater presence in the industry.
The remark sparked a furor among female artists and executives, a group of which sent a letter to the Recording Academy calling for Portnow’s ouster as president.
Portnow later apologized for the remark and acknowledged “the hurt that my poor choice of words” had caused.
“I also now realize that it’s about more than just my words,” he said. “Because those words, while not reflective of my beliefs, echo the real experience of too many women. I’d like to help make that right.”
He later announced the creation of a task force charged with exploring ways to improve “female advancement” in the industry.
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