Recording Academy president Neil Portnow has expressed his regret after suggesting female artists need to "step up" if they want to win more Grammy Awards.

Portnow made the ill-advised remarks backstage after Sunday's (28Jan18) New York City ceremony, where he offered up a few thoughts on why this year's winners were mostly male.

"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 Variety. "(They need) to step up because I think they would be welcome."

His comments sparked a huge backlash online, with artists like Pink, Sheryl Crow, Halsey, Charlie XCX, and Iggy Azalea among those slamming Portnow for the criticism.

Now the boss of the Recording Academy, the organisation behind music's big night, has addressed the controversy, claiming his words were "taken out of context".

"Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year's Grammy Awards," he began in a statement issued to People.com. "Regrettably, I used two words, 'step up,' that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make."

Portnow went on to acknowledge the struggles many female artists face in trying to have their voices heard, adding, "Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced.

"We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it."

He concluded the message by insisting he didn't mean to offend, while vowing to continue working towards equality in the music industry.

"I regret that I wasn't as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought," Portnow shared. "I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone."

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