Little is known about Chao's view on labor issues, though political analysts say she's well-qualified to run a large federal department.
Chao, 47, was a deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation in the administration of Bush's father. In 1991, she was chosen to be director of the Peace Corps. After leaving government, Chao went on to be CEO of United Way of America from 1992-1996. She currently is a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative, Washington-based think tank.
As labor secretary, Chao said she would work to "protect, nurture and develop America's most precious resource," its working men and women. She says she learned about hard work from her Taiwanese-immigrant parents. Her father held down three jobs when the Chao family moved to the United States.
"My parents taught me the founding principles of this country, the principles of freedom and opportunity, the value of hard work, the need to ensure that every man and woman is compensated fairly for their hard work," she said.
Chao is married to powerful Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. She was a big fundraiser for Bush, raising more than $100,000 for his election bid. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College and has an MBA from Harvard.
The controversy over the top labor post has slowed the process of filling lower-level positions in the department, such as a replacement for Charles Jeffress as head of OSHA. Republican presidents traditionally have pulled OSHA chiefs from the ranks of industry, such as John Pendergrass from 3M, Jerry Scannell from Johnson & Johnson, and Thorne Auchter from a construction company.