Remarks Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao For Women Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century

April 3, 2003

Thank you, Renee Amoore [President and Founder of The Amoore Group & member of President’s Advisory Council to the Office of the 21st Century Workforce].

And thank you for the outstanding job you are doing as a member of President George W. Bush’s Council of the 21st Century Workforce and for helping to plan this wonderful conference.

It is always a thrill for me to speak to women entrepreneurs and women professionals.

You are leading a powerful revolution. Once the workplace opened up to American women in the beginning of the last century, things have never been the same.

Women pressed for enactment of our country’s first labor laws. Women broke the glass ceiling in corporations and hold nearly half of all executive and managerial jobs in the United States. And today women are at the forefront of entrepreneurship—creating millions of new jobs and building our nation’s economic security.

We’re here today to talk about how this Administration is working to help you consolidate the gains you’ve made and to help you grow in your business or profession. But before we begin, I’d like to pay special tribute to our women and men in uniform, especially the women.

Women are flying Apache helicopters over Iraq. Women are medical warriors. And women are on the battlefield. Our thoughts and our prayers are with these courageous heroes, their families and their friends.

Our country is so proud that freedom has found such valiant defenders.

Many in this audience can identify with these pioneering women. As women entrepreneurs and women business leaders, you know the sense of satisfaction that comes from individual liberty and personal achievement.

Consider the tremendous contributions that women are making to our economy:

Women-owned business are growing at twice the rate of all U.S. firms, employing over 9 million workers and generating over $1 trillion in revenue. You are the engine of America’s economic growth!

And women owned businesses are not only growing in number, but they’re growing in strength. From 1997 to 2000, women-owned businesses with $1 million or more in revenue grew 31 percent, while their male-owned counterparts grew by just 19 percent.
We’re catching up!

Since 1997, the largest increase in women-owned firms came in “non-traditional” industries, such as construction, finance, and transportation.

Soon nothing will be off-limits to the limitless talents of women in business.

Women entrepreneurs are re-shaping the economic landscape, creating jobs and bringing about seismic changes in our nation’s business culture.

These gains could not have been achieved without hard work and sacrifice. Today you’ve heard success stories from women who made it to the top despite many obstacles. I’d like to add my own story to theirs.

I came to the United States from Taiwan as an eight-year old immigrant who spoke no English. My father had left three years before my mother and myself, to forge a new life in this country. My parents came here because they had tremendous confidence in America. And they had confidence in the abundant opportunities and the basic decency of the American people.

The old adage—that you can make it in America by working hard—is not a slogan to me. My own experiences—and those of my family—have certainly found it to be true. And today it’s true for all women, as professional and economic barriers have been torn down.
A sign of our growing influence is the record number of women President George W. Bush has appointed to high-level positions. I’m proud to be the first Asian American woman in history to serve in the President’s cabinet. I have three women colleagues in the cabinet—Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Agriculture Secretary Ann Venneman, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and of course, National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleeza Rice.

I’m also proud of the nine remarkable women Presidential Appointees on our leadership team at the Department of Labor—more than any other cabinet department in the administration. In fact, the Labor Department has the highest number of women in top leadership positions of any cabinet department in the history of our country—fully half!

We don’t just talk about women’s progress—we make it happen!

This Administration also recognizes that women entrepreneurs and women business leaders are vital to job creation and economic security. That’s why we’re implementing new policies aimed at helping you succeed.

With nearly three-quarters of all women in the workforce, you know better than anyone how difficult it is to balance work and family. So the Labor Department is putting the finishing touches on a proposal to encourage flexible arrangements in the workplace to help balance work and family needs.

And you know how difficult it is to attract and retain quality employees… especially when an attractive benefits package means double-digit increases in health-insurance costs.

That’s why this Administration supports Association Health Plans. These plans will help small businesses pool their resources, spread their risk and offer quality, affordable health care coverage for their workers. AHP’s can close the coverage gap for workers employed by small businesses.

And the President has proposed a jobs and growth plan specifically designed to meet the needs of small business, which are increasingly owned by women and minorities. The size of the president’s jobs and growth package is still being negotiated on Capitol Hill. But the objectives of his economic plan remain the same. The President wants to:

1. Accelerate the reductions in individual tax rates, so you can have more money in your own pocket.
2. Eliminate the “death tax” so you can pass you business to your children—your daughters—without tax penalties.
3. Eliminate the double taxation of dividend income, which is an important source of income for retired women.
4. Expand the expensing limits on equipment purchases for small businesses, so you can create more jobs.
5. Deliver critical short-term assistance to the unemployed through Personal Re-Employment Accounts.

And you can count on this Administration to find other ways to help women succeed.

President George W. Bush has issued an Executive Order mandating competition in services and contracts. It calls for unbundling large federal contracts whenever possible, to level the playing field for small entrepreneurs. The President believes that small business owners must have a fair shot at competing for federal contracts!

And recently, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration created a website — — specifically designed for women entrepreneurs.

This one-stop-shop for women in business includes information on procurement, access to capital, health insurance and retirement security. All of today’s events will be webcast on this site in the near future, so you can get information from the sessions you may have missed.

And just yesterday the Labor Department launched a new interactive web-based tool—the FirstStep Employment Law Advisor. This tool will help employers and employees understand and comply with our nation’s labor laws. This compliance assistance resource is available at and will be particularly useful for small business owners.

The goal of compliance assistance is to reach out and help the regulated community understand the more than 180 laws that cover almost every aspect of the workplace. By going online and answering a few questions, business owners can find out which laws apply to them and how to meet the law’s requirements. Booklets describing the compliance assistance program are available at the Labor Department’s exhibit booth at this conference.

These are just a few of the special tools this Administration has created to help you grow your business, expand your knowledge base and strengthen your skills.

I know many of you have traveled from other parts of Pennsylvania, from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Delaware to be here today. Thank you so much for coming. I also want to thank our distinguished panelists—and the women entrepreneurs who prepared the Taste of Philadelphia—for helping to make this conference a success.

The energy and enthusiasm of today’s women in business has inspired a whole new generation to aim for the top and to be satisfied with nothing less than success. Thank you for being such tremendous role models. And thank you for everything you are doing to ensure that our economy remains strong… and that our country remains a beacon of opportunity and hope for generations to come.
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