Eleanor Ramsey Finds the Facts

Eleanor Ramsey uses her Mason Tillman Associates to gauge how well public entities perform in contract, hiring, and advancement practices in relation to parity, inclusion, and equity.


Photo by Pat Mazzera


The woman who is now Eleanor Mason Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from UC Berkeley in 1977. But it quickly became apparent she would not be offered a job in academia. “It was a difficult time for women, African American women in particular,” she said.

However, she had taken a part-time job with a consulting firm while writing her dissertation and learned that there was a career path in consulting on government contracts. By 1978, Mason Tillman Associates was born. Soon thereafter, through a contact in the National Park Service, she found that Ohio Sen. John Glenn, who was considering running for president, had asked the NPS to look into the history of an Ohio town called Wilberforce, establishing that it had been an important stop on the Underground Railroad. This was contested by the evidence then available.

With her research skills, Ramsey discovered a box of historic postcards and did a series of in-home interviews with residents, documenting that the town, originally called Xenia, was, in fact, a historic site. This led to the creation of the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Site in Wilberforce.

“Unfortunately,” Ramsey said, “John Glenn never did become president.”

From there, it was back to California. Married to the late Judge Henry Ramsey, she started a family that eventually included two daughters and four sons. Mason Tillman Associates began developing a client list of cities and government entities that needed to examine their contract, hiring, and advancement practices, as well as their corporate cultures, for parity, inclusion, and equity. Ramsey evaluated and designed Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise programs for cities, transportation departments, public school districts, airports, states, and, counties.

One airport on that list is the Oakland airport, for which Mason Tillman Associates continues to do studies when required. The company has worked with 142 public and private clients nationwide. Today, two in-demand services are studies dealing with “inclusion program development,” and “implicit bias evaluation,” she said.

“We look at who is on the selection review panels for hiring, what questions are being asked, among many other factors,” Ramsey said. “When it comes to implicit bias, some of it shows up in attitudes of ‘this is just what we do,’ such as what types of leave are considered legitimate.” In the era of #MeToo, with some men refusing to take meetings with women for fear of harassment claims, Ramsey has some simple advice for male employers and employees: “If you treat every woman you work with as if she was your mother, you’ll have no problem.”

As Oakland grows and changes, Ramsey still sees much work ahead for Mason Tillman Associates. Now a grandmother of eight, a world traveler, and a member of the board of directors for the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, she is still very much the heartbeat of the firm she founded. For more information, visit MasonTillman.com.