Country artists, producers and record labels are joining together with music industry members from other genres to expand the opportunities for women in music. Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini and more have signed the new Producer & Engineer Inclusion Initiative from the Recording Academy's Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion.

The Producer & Engineer Inclusion Initiative, according to a press release, asks those hiring producers and engineers to include at least two female candidates in their selection process, and to think about gender diversity as they work with younger producers and engineers who are just coming into the field. By doing so, the Recording Academy's task force hopes to both expand the opportunities available to women currently in those fields, and inspire younger women to pursue production and engineering as a career path.

"The music industry is at a crossroads, and progress won’t happen on its own. There is no magic bullet to shift a status quo that has existed for centuries, but we see this initiative as an important step," says Tina Tchen, chair of the Recording Academy’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. "We know that change requires real commitment to intentional hiring and to providing young women with consistent training and mentorship. We aren’t here to tell anyone who to hire, but we have seen repeatedly that the simple act of making sure diverse candidates are always seen and considered makes it more likely that women will get the opportunities they previously have been denied."

A 2018 study by the the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a think tank studying diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, reports that women account for only 2 percent of producers and 3 percent of engineers in popular music. The Producer & Engineer Inclusion Initiative, the Recording Academy says, aims to "gives employers and creative decision-makers the continued ability to make the right choice for their music, while simultaneously providing visibility and opportunity for female producers and engineers."

More than 200 artists, producers, record labels and other music industry organizations and executives have signed the Producer & Engineer Inclusion Initiative. In addition to Urban and Ballerini, the country music community is represented by Kassi Ashton, Dierks Bentley, the Brothers Osborne, Brandi Carlile, Cam (who is a member of the Recording Academy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion), Kelly Clarkson, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, Ryan Hurd, Little Big Town, Lori McKenna, Steve Moakler, Ashley Monroe, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Lukas Nelson, Old Dominion and Carrie Underwood, along with producers Dave Cobb, Dann Huff, Luke Laird, Frank Liddell and Shane McAnally.

A number of Nashville-focused record labels and management companies have also made the pledge. Arista Nashville, Big Loud Records, Big Machine Label Group, Capitol Records Nashville, Columbia Nashville, EMI Nashville, MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville and RCA Nashville are all part of the initiative.

The Recording Academy formed its Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion after the 2018 Grammy Awards, after which some members of the music industry felt that women and people of color, specifically in light of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, were underrepresented. Comments by Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow and Grammy Awards telecast producer Ken Ehrlich that were dismissive of women in music intensified the outcry.

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