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October 5, 2008    DOL Home > Newsroom > Speeches & Remarks   

Speeches by Secretary Elaine L. Chao

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Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
Women's History Month Reception
Carnegie Institute of Science
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thank you, Shinae [Chun, Director, Women's Bureau].

Good evening! It is wonderful to be in a roomful of women! Looking around, this is a great group of accomplished women who are making a difference for our country in their homes, in their professions, and in their communities.

I understand you just participated in a panel discussion led by Karen Kerrigan, the founder, President, and CEO of Women Entrepreneurs, Inc.

You also heard from Marin Alsop, the Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra — the first woman to head a major American orchestra — that's a tremendous milestone!

And, Ruth Degolia, co-founder and Executive Director of Mercado Global — thank you so much for being here as well.

All of you are living testimony to the tremendous changes that have taken place in our society regarding the role of women. Today, women are entering the professions in greater numbers than ever before. And while there is always more to be done, our voices are increasingly being heard at the highest levels of the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

I'm proud that over the past seven years, President George W. Bush has appointed a record number of women to high level positions in his Administration, including five women to his current Cabinet. Today, the U.S. Senate has 16 women and the U.S. House of Representatives has 70 women. In addition, three women serve as Delegates to the House from Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC. To date, women have been elected statewide to executive offices in 49 out of our nation's 50 states. And there are 1,741 women state legislators.

And our country is continuing to produce new opportunities for women. As you know, our country is increasingly part of the worldwide economy. And the result is that our nation is transitioning to a knowledge based economy, which places a greater emphasis on education and higher skills.

Women are well-positioned to benefit from this trend, because we appreciate the importance of education.

Today, American women complete high school at higher rates than men. Women are more likely to enter and graduate from college than men. In fact, the number of women holding a bachelor's degree or higher has more than doubled in the past 20 years.

And, a look down the road shows that women are positioning themselves for even greater gains over the next20 years. Last year, women comprised more than half of all advanced degree holders under the age of 40. So it's no surprise that the unemployment rate for women is slightly lower than for men.

Also, women-owned businesses are growing at twice the national rate. And, that's so important to our economy because two-thirds of new jobs are being created by small and medium-sized firms.

The President and this Administration also support many initiatives to help women succeed and balance work and family life. The Department is currently updating the Family and Medical Leave regulations to ensure that this benefit is strengthened for those who need it most.

Women have come a long way in our society. And the future holds even greater promise, as women position themselves for success through education and lifelong learning. Whether it's in the workplace, in the home, or a combination of both, women are key to making our country stronger and more competitive.

So, thank you for everything you are doing to advance the role of the women in the workplace. Working together, we can continue to ensure that the doors of opportunity remain wide open for all.

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