Cabinet Secretary Alexis Herman

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman hide caption

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During her time as secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, Alexis Herman created programs to train under-skilled workers and to assist women trying to enter the labor market for the first time.

Herman's advocacy began long before her arrival in Washington. Raised in Mobile, Ala., she experienced discrimination first-hand. Herman's father was a civil rights advocate, and, on one occasion, the Ku Klux Klan brutally beat him in front of her. But he never gave up his activism.

At New Orleans' Xavier University, Herman followed in her father's footsteps. She focused on labor relations, and in her first job out of school, she trained unemployed teens. When she was just 29, President Jimmy Carter tapped her to head the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau.

While at the Women's Bureau, Herman pressured corporate giants to hire women of color. For the first time, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, General Motors and others put diversity on their list of hiring priorities.

Now out of politics, Herman continues to advise companies on equitable hiring policy. As part of News & Notes' "Leading Ladies" series, she recently sat down with Farai Chideya to discuss her career.

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