Valeisha Butterfield Jones, co-president of The Recording Academy, is stepping down effective Sept. 9 to return to Google as vp of partnerships in October. Prior to joining the Academy in May 2020, Butterfield Jones served as Google’s global head of inclusion. Her departure, described as amicable, comes just shy of completing her first year as the Academy’s co-president alongside Panos A. Panay.
On Aug. 16, 2021, then-president/CEO Harvey Mason, jr. relinquished half of his title to the pair, formally separating the two posts for the first time in the organization’s history. Following Butterfield Jones’ ascension to co-president from chief officer of diversity & inclusion, Ryan Butler was appointed vp of diversity, equity & inclusion. According to the Academy, Mason will continue as CEO with Panay as president and no additional co-president to be named at this time. The senior level management that previously reported to Butterfield Jones will now report to Mason.
Calling Butterfield Jones’ departure a “bittersweet moment,” CEO Mason said, “We are all heartbroken that Valeisha is leaving us but also so thankful for and proud of the incredible work she has done with us over the past two years. She has been the perfect partner and someone I feel truly lucky to have worked so closely with. She has made me a better CEO and definitely made our Academy a better organization. I’m deeply appreciative of all the contributions she’s made, the impact she’s had and the example she has set for each one of us.”
Segueing from Google, Butterfield Jones joined the Academy as its first chief officer of diversity & inclusion in May 2020, hired by Mason. Her appointment came during a tumultuous period for the organization. Receiving industry backlash after the Grammy Awards in 2018 for his comment that women needed to “step up” if they wanted to be better represented in the music industry, then-president/CEO Neil Portnow (replaced by Deborah Dugan from August 2019 through March 2020) announced the Academy’s establishment of an independent diversity & inclusion task force in 2018 helmed by Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to former First Lady Michelle Obama. Releasing its final report in December 2019, the task force recommended the hiring of a diversity & inclusion officer at the executive level by May 1, 2020.
Butterfield Jones oversaw the creation of several major initiatives including the Black Music Collective, the Recording Academy Honors, Women in the Mix Study and the HBCU [Historically Black Colleges & Universities] Love Tour. She was also responsible for implementing the first awards show inclusion rider and #ChangeMusic Roadmap and created a DEI infrastructure, including partnerships with Color of Change and GLAAD. As an honorary co-chair of the Black Music Collective, Butterfield Jones will continue her involvement with the Academy and the broader music community. Additional news about her ongoing Academy involvement will be announced in the coming months.
“When I came to the Recording Academy over two years ago, I had a clear mission: to make the Recording Academy the most inclusive company in music, and the world,” said Butterfield Jones in a statement. “Diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords; as an organization, we were committed to doing the work both publicly and privately to drive real and meaningful change. It has been one of the greatest honors of my career to serve this bold, new Recording Academy and my service to our mission will continue in new and even more impactful ways. Working at the Recording Academy has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I am incredibly grateful to have worked alongside Harvey, Panos, the board and the entire Academy staff during one of the most exciting and revolutionary times in the history of this change-making organization. We made significant impact together and I know I will carry these experiences with me as I embark on this exciting next professional chapter with Google.”
In her new role as vp of partnerships at Google, Butterfield Jones will join a team headed by chief diversity officer Melonie Parker. “Valeisha is a true leader in bringing people together as she’s done during her time at the Academy and previously at Google,” stated Parker. “She will play a critical role in our external partnerships and inclusion programs. I am thrilled for Valeisha’s return and for the indelible mark she’ll continue to make.”