Elaine L Chao

Women Impacting Public Policy - Sept. 17, 2007

Elaine L Chao
September 17, 2007— Washington, D.C.
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Remarks Prepared for delivery
Women Impacting Public Policy
Washington, D.C.
Monday, September 17, 2007

Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here. Talk about "woman power!" You are living testament to the world of opportunities out there for women today. It wasn't that long ago when women had basically two choices...marry or teach. Now we still have those wonderful choices and so many more. Women today are blessed to have the freedom to choose our own path.

Today, I'd like to share some thoughts on the state of the economy, how women are poised for success in our changing economy, and what this Administration is doing to help women succeed.

First, let me give you a brief overview of the economy. Despite challenges in the housing and financial credit markets, the fundamentals of our nation's economy are still healthy. Output grew by 4 percent in the 2nd Quarter, driven in part by increasing U.S. exports. And even with the numerous headwinds our economy is facing, most economists expect growth to continue. Unemployment remains a very low 4.6 percent, more than a full point lower than the average of the 1990s, which was 5.7 percent. More than 8.2 million new jobs have been created since August 2003. And productivity growth is steady, which paves the way for higher pay for workers. In fact, a recent ILO report found that American workers were more productive than any other in the world. Since January 2001, real after-tax personal income has risen 11.9 percent. So our country is continuing to grow and produce new opportunities.

But there are challenges. Our country is increasingly part of the worldwide economy. And as our country transitions to a knowledge-based economy, the demand for skilled and educated workers is growing. In the decade ending in 2014, nearly two-thirds of the estimated 18 million new jobs will be in occupations that require some post-secondary education.

And women are well-positioned to benefit from this trend. While there are many reasons why women are succeeding in today's workforce, one of the key reasons is that we appreciate the importance of education.

Today, American women complete high school at higher rates than men. They 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 just look at how far women are advancing in the professions. Recent estimates show that:

  • Almost half of all medical school students are women,
  • Over 35 percent of all MBA students are women,
  • And nearly 48 percent of all law school students are women.

And a look down the road shows that women are positioning themselves for even greater gains over the next twenty years. Last year, women comprised more than half of all advanced degree holders under the age of 40.

As we access education in increasingly higher numbers, more women are choosing to go out on their own and work for themselves. In fact, the number of women-owned businesses has grown in recent years at twice the national average.

And small businesses are the engine of economic growth in our country. In the last decade, small and medium size businesses in the U.S. have generated close to two thirds of net job growth. And a 2005 Labor Department study found that companies with less than 500 employees accounted for 65.3 percent of net job growth during the previous two years. And employers with less than 50 employees accounted for 48.7 percent of new jobs.

This administration recognizes the importance of small businesses to our country's economic strength and has launched many initiatives to help them grow and thrive. The philosophy behind these initiatives is a strong belief that the private sector—not the government—creates jobs. And that the role of government is to create the conditions for growth and job creation. So the President has focused his economic policies on allowing workers and entrepreneurs like you to keep more of your hard earned money, so you can have more money to spend, save, and invest.

The President has cut taxes six times. And, as part of this package, the President also cut taxes on small businesses. Whether as sole proprietorships, limited partnerships, or subchapter S corporations, most small businesses pay taxes at the individual income tax rate. By reducing the tax rates on individuals, taxes on small businesses were cut. This increased the amount of capital available to expand and hire new workers. The President also increased investment expensing tax provisions and proposed more in the 2007 budget to help small businesses grow and create more jobs.

So to keep the small business sector strong, Congress needs to make tax relief permanent. Now is not the time to raise taxes on America's workers and job creating entrepreneurs. In keeping with this philosophy, President Bush has just submitted an FY 2008 budget that keeps taxes low and will enable our country to achieve a balanced budget by 2012.

The President understands that every dollar spent in Washington is a dollar that cannot be used by a small business owner to create jobs or save for a child's future.

The Labor Department is working to implement the President's pro-growth strategy for small and medium sized entrepreneurs through a series of policy and program initiatives. The Department has taken the lead in opening up its grants and contracting opportunities to competition and ensuring that small and medium sized entrepreneurs have equal access to these opportunities. And, as you have heard, the Department has taken the lead in promoting Association Health Plans, which will allow small businesses to pool their resources and buy insurance at more affordable rates.

Understanding the federal procurement process is important because last year the federal government awarded nearly $78 billion in contracts to small businesses. In 2006, the Department of Labor awarded over $575 million in contracts to small businesses. And I'm pleased to report that the Department exceeded the government wide goal of 5 percent for women-owned businesses. Six percent of DOL's prime contract dollars, and over 11 percent of its subcontract dollars, were awarded to women-owned small businesses. And we expect to exceed that goal in 2007, as well.

Let me tell you a little about the services the Labor Department buys from the private sector. Seventy-five percent of the Labor Department's procurement is for the operation, construction and maintenance of Job Corps Centers. These centers train nearly 65,000 students each year in 122 Job Corps centers in 48 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. So these opportunities are widespread across the United States.

To help traditionally underserved communities access these opportunities, the Department launched a series of Opportunity Conferences. In fact, the next Opportunity Conference will be held tomorrow, September 18th here in Washington, D.C. During this conference, the Department's Office of Small Business Programs is distributing a new, expanded version of its booklet Doing Business with the U.S. Department of Labor. It describes the tools that small businesses need to navigate the federal procurement system more quickly, efficiently and successfully. In addition, this booklet provides information on how to access contracts with all federal agencies. So I have brought some with me today, to hand out to you.

Please be sure to take one of these booklets! It's a concise guide that will give you many tips on how to successfully access contracting opportunities in the federal government.

In addition, the Department has sponsored a series of conferences under the Women's Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Initiative. These conferences focus on the needs of women entrepreneurs like you. They were held in Washington, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. We also have a web site offering key resources, targeted information, online programs and networking opportunities for women small business owners. The address is www.Women-21.gov and I encourage you to take a look at this resource, as well.

In addition to entrepreneurship, women are playing an increasingly important role in public life. Over the past six 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 71 women. And to date, women have been elected statewide to executive offices in 49 out of our nation's 50 states. And there are 1,733 women state legislators.

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. And women entrepreneurs are making significant contributions to our economy, and helping to keep our country's economy strong and growing.

So thank you for everything you are doing to advance the role of the women in the workplace and to create jobs and opportunity for others.

And now, I'll be happy to take a few questions.

Speech from http://www.dol.gov/_sec/media/speeches/20070917_Women_Policy.htm.