Born in Mobile, Alabama, she began her career working for Catholic Charities helping young out-of-school men and women find work in the Pascagoula, Mississippi shipyard. At the age of twenty-nine, President Jimmy Carter’s appointment made her the youngest director of the Women's Bureau in the history of the Labor Department. In 1992, she became the 1st African American woman to serve as an Assistant to the president as the Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. On May 1, 1997, Alexis M. Herman was sworn in as America’s 23rd Secretary of Labor and the first African American ever to lead the United States Department of Labor. During her tenure as a member of the President’s Cabinet she also served as a valued member of the National Economic Council.
As Secretary, she focused on a prepared workforce, a secure workforce, and quality workplaces. With that mandate in mind, she consolidated the Department’s wide array of skills development programs into a simpler, more efficient system. She led the effort to institute a global child labor standard; moved people from welfare to work with dignity; and launched the most aggressive unemployed youth initiative since the 1970’s. Under her tenure, unemployment in the country reached a thirty-year low and remains so today. The nation witnessed the safest workplace record in the history of the Department of Labor. Alexis Herman’s actions as Secretary were a reflection of her understanding of the needs of America’s workers and the challenges they faced as this nation approached the 21st Century.
Currently, Ms. Herman serves as chair and chief executive officer of New Ventures, LLC. She has continued to lend her expertise and talent to a vast array of corporate enterprises and nonprofit organizations. A recipient of more than twenty five honorary doctorate degrees from major colleges and universities around the country, Herman is a former trustee of her alma mater, Xavier University of Louisiana. She Co-Chaired the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund and was a member of the board of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Presently, she chairs the Toyota Diversity Advisory Board. Herman is the Lead Director of Cummins Inc, and a member of the boards of directors of Entergy, MGM Resorts International, and the Coca-Cola Company. Her nonprofit work today includes: serving as a Trustee for the National Urban League, a member of the Executive Board of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the president of the Dorothy I. Height Educational Foundation.