- U. S. Secretary of Transportation
- U. S. Secretary of Labor
- President & CEO, United Way of America
- Director of Peace Corps
- Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission
- Banker with Bank of America & Citibank
- Harvard Business School.
Public servant. Problem-solver. Innovator. Immigrant. Trailblazer.
Each of Elaine Chao’s varied titles and roles says something about who she is, what she has done, and what she continues to contribute to her country.
She has been described as “a workhorse rather than a show horse” (The National Ledger), as “one of the most respectable women in government” (Latina Style) and as “the best Transportation Secretary ever” (U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Missouri)).
U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (Nebraska) applauded Secretary Chao for leaving “a legacy of principled leadership and enormous accomplishment that so many of us will long remember," and U.S. Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) has said that Secretary Chao “has to be viewed as one of the great public servants of our time” – a striking accolade that is only fully appreciated when the full context of her life is considered.
Elaine Chao arrived in this country as an 8-year-old, speaking no English, and didn’t become a U.S. citizen until she was 19 years old. The eldest of six daughters, she would rise to graduate from Harvard Business School before embarking on a distinguished career in the private sector and public service.
A Career of Firsts, and of Transformations
The story of Elaine Chao’s professional life is full of historic firsts, including being the first woman of Asian American & Pacific Islander heritage to serve in a President’s cabinet in our nation’s history. She served two terms as U. S. Secretary of Labor and, later, as U. S. Secretary of Transportation – a record-breaking 12 years, making her the longest-serving Cabinet secretary since World War II.
As Peace Corps Director, Elaine Chao started the first Peace Corps programs in the Baltic States and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, including Ukraine. As United Way of America President & CEO, Elaine Chao saved the organization during one of its most challenging periods. Elaine Chao was brought in to lend her name and reputation to restore the integrity of the iconic institution. She worked to change the governance structure to provide for more accountability and transparency to win back donors and lost contributions.
U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy would one day commend Secretary Chao that “Having lived the American Dream…she ensured the Dream was available to others, particularly the forgotten men and women of this country.”
Elaine Chao - Innovative Leader
When considering her track record of turning around organizations, it’s no wonder that Elaine Chao is also known as a “doer” and a forward-thinking leader. During her tenure as Secretary of Transportation, the Department prioritized safety while increasing its investments in infrastructure by more than $300 billion. Her hallmark as Secretary of Transportation was innovation – with initiatives and projects focused on developing the transportation systems of the future such as self-driving cars, drones, high speed rail and commercial space.
On her watch as Secretary of Labor, the Department set new records in workplace safety and focused on workforce preparedness. Under her leadership, workers received increased overtime protection. Over 44 million pensioners saw increased retirement security; caregivers to our wounded warriors received greater flexibility in family medical leave; miners received more protection on their jobs; and union members were able to access more transparency into the finances of their unions.
It is no wonder that U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia) once summarized her admiration for Secretary Chao simply by saying “I will always appreciate … her dedication, compassion and ability in the many positions she has held. She did it the right way.”
A Unique Appreciation for Equal Opportunity
To read Elaine Chao’s resumé is to see a list of extraordinary professional accomplishments, but Elaine Chao sees herself simply as a public servant who works to ensure that everyone has access to the opportunities in our country.
She has served as a director of numerous public companies. Today, she serves on the board of Kroger and several new economy technology companies. She also serves on the boards of a number of nonprofit organizations, providing expertise and skill to transforming organizations.