Secretary Elaine Chao



Secretary Elaine Chao Biography

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, the 24th U. S. Secretary of Labor who served from 2001-2009, is the first American woman of Asian descent to be appointed to a President’s Cabinet in our nation’s history.  She is the longest tenured Secretary of Labor since World War II, and the only member of President Bush’s original cabinet to have served the entire eight years of his Administration.

An immigrant who arrived in America at the age of eight speaking no English, Secretary Chao’s experience transitioning to a new country has motivated her to dedicate most of her professional life to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to build better lives.

As the first U. S. Secretary of Labor in the 21st century, Elaine L. Chao focused on improving the competitiveness of America’s workforce by restructuring department programs to empower workers and modernizing regulations to respond to the realities of the 21st century workplace.  Under her leadership, the U.S. Department of Labor achieved record results in protecting the health, safety, wages, and retirement security of the nation’s workforce.

Secretary Chao’s distinguished career spans the public, private and non-profit sectors. As President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, she restored public trust and confidence in one of our nation’s premier charitable institutions after it had been tarnished by financial mismanagement and abuse. As Director of the Peace Corps, she established the first programs in the newly liberated Baltic nations and the independent states of the former Soviet Union.  Her government service also includes serving as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, Deputy Maritime Administrator, and White House Fellow.  Prior to her government service, she was Vice President of Syndications at BankAmerica Capital Markets Group and a banker with Citicorp in New York.

Secretary Chao with President George W. Bush walking toward Marine One on the White House South Lawn.

Secretary Chao earned her MBA from the Harvard Business School and an economics degree from Mount Holyoke College.  She also attended the 12-college Exchange program at Dartmouth College and Columbia University summer school.

Recognized with innumerable awards for her public and community service, she is the recipient of 36 honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities across the globe.  A popular speaker on jobs, the economy, and U. S.  competitiveness issues.  She served on a number of corporate and nonprofit boards

The first Kentuckian named to the President’s cabinet since 1945, Secretary Chao is married to the United States Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

On January 31, 2017, Secretary Chao was confirmed as the 18th U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

“She has a record in terms of a decrease in the number of injuries in the workforce and also fatalities, about a 14% decrease in fatalities over the years that she served as Secretary of Labor and a 21% decrease in the number of illness and injuries on the job.”

Elizabeth Dole
Former US Senator from North Carolina On her time as Secretary of Labor