Elaine Lan Chao (born March 26, 1953) is an American businesswoman and government official. A member of the Republican Party, Chao served as the 18th Secretary of Transportation in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2021, and as the 24th Secretary of Labor in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2009.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Chao immigrated to the United States when she was eight years old. Her father founded the Foremost Group, which eventually became a major shipping corporation. Chao was raised on Long Island, New York, and subsequently received degrees from Mount Holyoke College and Harvard Business School. She worked for a number of financial institutions before being appointed to several senior positions in the Department of Transportation under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, including Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission (1988–1989) and Deputy Secretary of Transportation (1989–1991). She served as Director of the Peace Corps from 1991 to 1992 and as president of the United Way of America from 1992 to 1996.
While not in government, Chao has served on several corporate boards of directors and worked for The Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute, two conservative think-tanks. Chao was the first Asian-American woman and the first Taiwanese American in U.S. history to be appointed to a President's Cabinet. Chao married U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell in 1993.
During her tenure as Transportation Secretary in the Trump administration, the Transportation Department's inspector general found numerous instances where Chao used her office to promote her family's shipping business. No charges were ever brought against her. The Justice department said “there may be ethical/administrative issues but no evidence to support criminal charges.”