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Heritage Expert

Elaine Chao

  • Distinguished Fellow

Elaine L. Chao is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, where she works on jobs, employment, trade, workforce and competitiveness issues.

An immigrant to this country, she arrived at the age of 8 speaking no English.  In 2001, Chao became the nation’s 24th secretary of labor and the first American woman of Asian descent to be appointed to a president's Cabinet in the country’s history.  The longest-serving secretary of labor since World War II, she is also the only member of President Bush’s Cabinet to serve all eight years of his administration. 

Chao's distinguished career spans the public, private and non-profit sectors. During her tenure as labor secretary, the department set new records in worker health and safety; focused on increasing the competitiveness of America’s workforce in a globalized economy and enforced union financial disclosure reporting requirements for the benefit of rank-and-file workers.

Prior to leading the Department of Labor, Chao was president and CEO of United Way of America, director of the Peace Corps, deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation and chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission.   She also worked as vice president at Bank of America in San Francisco and at Citicorp in New York City. 

Chao received her MBA from the Harvard Business School and a degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College.  Honored with innumerable awards for her contributions to public and community service, Chao is also the recipient of 34 honorary doctorate degrees.

She is married to the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and they reside in Jefferson County, Ky.   Her website is www.ElaineLchao.com.

All Publications by Elaine Chao