Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Elaine Chao on Politico Podcast

Politico has started a new podcast called Women Rule and the latest episode features Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. I recommend it -- particularly to young women looking to get ahead in male dominated industries.

Chao discusses immigrating to America as an eight year old who spoke no English and didn't know how to use a fork. Although I have heard Chao talk about this experience before, I am always struck by how much her family overcame, and their courage in coming here; Chao's mother stayed back in China with Chao and two of her sisters for three years before they were able to join her husband in America.

It's just extraordinary that Chao rose to serve four different presidents, two as a member of the cabinet. Her family illustrates the American dream. It never fails to encourage me.

Chao had some interesting insights in working in places where she was the only woman. She didn't like sports and therefore could not participate in the banter that preceded the work of meetings. And she decided that because she really was not interested, she would not try to learn a little something about sports and fake it; she was authentic to her own interests.

She was able to become included by virtue of her mastery of subjects like transportation and finance. Subject mastery, Chao observed, is empowering. Women tend to prepare more than men, Chao noted, and that has been her style as well.

Chao advised younger women to not be afraid of making a mistake, particularly misspeaking. In part, that comes from Chao's view of America as a land of second chances. It also reflects her observation that Americans are not like Asians -- who choose words deliberately and listen to others with the expectation they did likewise.  In America, there's a good chance no one will remember the mistake, Chao said.

In addition to insights about her leadership style, Chao gives some tidbits about her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Kentuckians will not be surprised to hear what a considerate spouse he is. Still, it's hard to comprehend the Senate Majority Leader doing laundry.

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