Celebrating Black History Month 2019: Some Civil Rights Leaders Who Inspire Us at Working IDEAL

Working IDEAL
3 min readFeb 4, 2019

By Pamela Coukos, co-founder and CEO, Working IDEAL

Image credits: Charles Dharapak/Associated Press via The Durango Herald, Rex Features/Associated Press via The New York Times

In honor of Black History Month, we are shining a light on a few of the civil rights heroes who inspire us. These Black women and men stood up for workers’ rights and civil rights, and worked tirelessly for progress on racial and gender equality, pay equity, the fight against sexual harassment, fair employment practices and more. Our commitment at Working IDEAL to create workplaces that offer inclusion, diversity, equity, access and leadership opportunities for all owes a huge debt to their groundbreaking contributions.

Jacqueline A. Berrien, was Chair of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a longtime civil rights lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. As EEOC Chair, she served on President Obama’s Equal Pay Task Force and made pay equity enforcement a key agency priority. She also played a critical role in the fight to ensure a fair and nondiscriminatory approach to employers’ use of criminal history information. “She spent her entire career fighting to give voice to underrepresented communities and protect our most basic rights.” — President Barack Obama

Shirley Chisholm’s life of leadership was full of many firsts. She was the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress. She then became the first woman to compete for the Democratic party nomination, as well as the first Black presidential candidate to run for a major party’s nomination. 10 years after her passing, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As a legislator, she championed a number of progressive causes, including some at the core of Working IDEAL’s mission, like fair wages and working conditions, the Equal Rights Amendment and racial and gender equality.

“The Rankin-Chisholm Rule, modeled after the National Football League’s Rooney Rule, is designed to increase racial and gender diversity among staffers in Capitol Hill offices by implementing a diverse interview slate requirement.” — Represent Women

Before #MeToo, there was Anita Hill, who courageously came forward to tell her story about sexual harassment by a Supreme Court nominee in 1991. Her testimony was a catalyst for the first real national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace, leading to changes in the law and workplace policies and inspiring others to come forward. Since then she has continued to write and speak about workplace harassment and gender and racial equality. She currently leads the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace to address sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. Read more about Professor Hill, Mechelle Vinson, Tarana Burke and the other Black women who shaped sexual harassment law and originated the #MeToo movement.

A Philip Randolph was a civil rights and labor leader who spent decades in the struggle against racial segregation and discrimination, advancing the rights of Black workers through organizing and protest. Founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) in the 1920s, he later succeeded in a campaign to ensure that all workers regardless of race could get access to valuable wartime federal contracting work. In response to Randolph’s pressure, President President Franklin D. Roosevelt adopted the first federal fair employment requirements for wartime contracting in Executive Order 8802 establishing the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). This laid the groundwork for later laws banning workplace discrimination that are so important to equity and inclusion today.



Working IDEAL

Inclusion. Diversity. Equity. Access. Leadership. / Strategies for the IDEAL Workplace.