Elaine L. Chao

Elaine L. Chao became the first Asian American to serve in a cabinet-level position when George W. Bush appointed her Secretary of Labor in 2001.


Born in Taiwan, Elaine L. Chao grew up in the U.S. and received an M.B.A. from Harvard University. After a stint in the financial sector, she took positions with the Dept. of Transportation, the United Way, and the Peace Corps. Chao also joined the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In 2001, George W. Bush appointed her Secretary of Labor. Chao wed Senator Mitch McConnell in 1993.


Former Secretary of labor, government official, and executive. Born on March 26, 1953, in Taipei, Taiwan. Elaine L. Chao was the first Asian American woman to be appointed to a cabinet-level position. She arrived in the United States at the age of eight without knowing any English. Chao adapted to her new country and excelled as a student, earning a bachelor??s degree from Mount Holyoke College in 1975 and a master??s of business administration from Harvard University in 1979.

At first, Elaine L. Chao worked in the financial sector for such banking giants as Citicorp and BankAmerica. By the mid- to late 1980s, she began her involvement in public affairs as the deputy maritime administrator in the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. She went on to other posts at the transportation department as well as a stint as the chair of the Federal Maritime Commission. A loyal Republican, Chao was selected to serve as head of the Peace Corps in 1991, but soon lost her post after George Bush failed in his bid for re-election. But her work managing the world??s largest volunteer organization would help her with the next stage of her life.

Elaine L. Chao became the president and chief executive officer of the United Way of America in 1992. She joined the charitable organization after claims of financial mismanagement had damaged its reputation. With her work cut out for her, Chao took the challenge and a much smaller salary than previous presidents. She restructured the organization and cut staff to rein in its finances and restore the public??s trust.

After leaving the United Way in 1996, Elaine L. Chao joined the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy research institution, as a distinguished fellow. In 2001, President George W. Bush selected her to become a member of his cabinet. Chao broke new ground, becoming the first Asian American woman to serve at this level of government. As Secretary of Labor she worked to improve overtime regulations for millions of workers as well as update regulations related to workers?? unions disclosure of financial information.

Politics and public service is a family affair for Elaine L. Chao. She has married to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky since 1993.

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