Shirley J. Wilcher, Mount Holyoke Class of 1973, is a leading authority on equal opportunity and diversity policy. After graduating from Mount Holyoke cum laude with a degree in Philosophy and French, she went on to receive her MA in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research and her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. While a student at Mount Holyoke she received a certificat pratique de langue Francaise from the Université de Paris. While a student at Harvard, Wilcher began a career in civil rights as clerk for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
After earning her law degree, she became staff attorney for the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. She later moved to Capitol Hill as Associate Counsel for Civil Rights for the House Committee on Education and Labor. There, she was responsible for legislation and oversight of the federal agencies charged with enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and other laws relating to equal employment opportunity and labor standards. She served as principal staff person on major investigations of the civil rights enforcement activities of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, U.S. Department of Labor, and the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education. Wilcher left Capitol Hill to serve as the Director for State Relations and General Counsel for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
During the Clinton Administration, Wilcher served a near seven-year term as Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in the Labor Department. There she directed a federal program that emphasized the elimination of systemic barriers to equal employment opportunity, the glass ceiling, and inequities in corporate compensation systems, testifying before both House and Senate Labor Committees. Following her service in the Clinton Administration, Wilcher established her consulting firm, Wilcher Global LLC, and served as Executive Director of Americans for a Fair Chance, a consortium of six civil rights legal organizations formed to serve as an educational resource on affirmative action. Wilcher also taught as adjunct Associate Professor of Law at Washington College of Law of American University and worked as Attorney Advisor for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Currently, Wilcher is the Executive Director of the American Association for Access Equity and Diversity (AAAED), formerly the American Association for Affirmative Action (AAAA), founded in 1974. AAAED is an organization of equal opportunity, diversity and affirmative action professionals working for academic institutions, the private sector and government. Wilcher is also President and CEO of the Fund for Leadership, Equity, Access and Diversity (LEAD Fund), the nonprofit affiliate of AAAED.
Shirley is the recipient of the NAACP’s Keeper of the Flame Award, AAAED’s Rosa Parks Award and the special Drum Major for Justice and President’s Awards for AAAA/AAAED. Wilcher also served as the first Recording Secretary of the National Political Congress of Black Women, founded in 1984 by former U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm, and was on the board of Wider Opportunities for Women. Wilcher is an Advisory Board Member, Oxford Women’s Leadership Program, Oxford, UK. In 2018, Shirley Wilcher received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from her alma mater, Mount Holyoke College.