Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Lancaster, Lancaster County
Barbara Hackman Franklin served as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1992 to 1993.
Barbara Hackman Franklin was born in Lancaster in 1940. After graduating from Penn State University in 1962, she received her M.B.A from the Harvard Business School in 1964. She served on President Richard Nixon’s administration during the 1970s to recruit talented women into leadership positions in the federal government. Although she returned to the business world for over a decade, she was appointed as the 29th Secretary of Commerce by President George H. W. Bush and her tenure lasted from 1992-1993. Currently, she is the President and CEO of Barbara Franklin Enterprises, a consulting and investment firm.
Barbara Hackman Franklin was born on March 19, 1940, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is the daughter of Arthur A. Hackman and Mayme M. Haller Hackman. In 1962, Hackman graduated with distinction from Penn State University, and went on to become one of the first women in the Harvard Business School, from which she graduated with an M.B.A. degree in 1964. For several years, she worked in the business world, including positions as a manager of environmental analysis at the Singer Company and as an assistant vice president at Citibank from 1969-1971.
In 1971, she was commissioned by President Richard M. Nixon to become a Staff Assistant to recruit talented women into leadership positions in the federal government. When Nixon had been inaugurated in 1969, American women did not have a significant role in politics. Only two women had ever been appointed to Cabinet positions–Frances Perkins was the Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Roosevelt and Oveta Culp Hobby was the Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare under President Dwight Eisenhower. When the 91st Congress began in 1969, Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican Senator from Maine, was the only female Senator and there were only 12 women serving in the House of Representatives. While she served in her role as staff assistant for only two years, Hackman was credited with advancing the role of women in government jobs. Due to her accomplishments as a staff assistant, she was nominated and confirmed as the Commissioner and Vice Chairman of the newly established Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1973, where she worked for six years.
In 1979, she returned to the business world and Hackman was named a senior fellow of the Wharton School of Business and director of the Wharton Government and Business Program at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1984, she founded Franklin Associates, a management and consulting firm, where she served as the President and Chief Executive Officer until 1992. Although her primary focus was the business sector, she served four terms on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy Negotiations; she was appointed to that role by both President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush.
She returned to the political realm in 1992-1993 and Franklin served as the Secretary of Commerce under the administration of President George H. W. Bush, making her the highest-ranking woman in his administration. In a Washington Post article by John E. Yang and Steven Mufson that ran the day after President Bush nominated her, the President said that she was chosen for her similar priorities. “Her first priority is the same as mine: jobs and economic growth,” President Bush was quoted as saying in the article. The President also called Franklin “a leader and role model for many women in business.” In that same article, Franklin said: “I look forward to and will be very proud to be an advocate for American business—small business, big business, medium-size business, start-up business, manufacturing, service, whatever kind of business we have in this country because it is the economic backbone of America and really the envy of the world.”
Franklin was sworn in as the 29th Secretary of Commerce on February 27, 1992, becoming the 13th woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet. This honor validated her efforts from two decades earlier when she worked under President Nixon to increase the role of women in government. Her most prominent accomplishment during her tenure as Secretary of Commerce was increasing American exports, especially with China, Russia, Japan and Mexico. She traveled to China in December 1992, which helped to normalize American commercial relations with China and removed the ban on ministerial contact that had been in place following protests and massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. As a direct result of her visit, American companies were able to receive more than $1 billion in new contracts and trade with China grew dramatically.
In a letter to the editor of the New York Times published on December 29, 1992, Franklin said: “Several weeks ago President Bush asked me to lead a Presidential mission to China, following his decision to resume high-level economic talks with the Chinese. The driving rationale for the mission was to promote economic growth and jobs in the United States by insuring that American businesses have the support and opportunity to capitalize on the booming Chinese market, growing at 12 percent a year… President Bush’s policy of constructive engagement is a long-term investment in our economic future and is already delivering results in China and in the United States…The interagency delegation I led to China and Hong Kong came back with almost $1 billion in business, and more important, we made it abundantly clear to the Chinese that they must address our concerns over the growing trade imbalance between China and the United States.” Although she was refuting criticism she received while in office, she was also showing the success of her trip and trying to increase American support for foreign relations with China. Since her term was nearly over by the time she took this trip, she did not have to defend her actions or bolster support for future interactions with China; however, it was clear that she wanted the next administration to continue her work of increasing American exports, especially to China.
Franklin’s appointment ended in January 1993 with the inauguration of President Bill Clinton and for the past 15 years, she has remained in the private sector. She is now President and Chief Executive Officer of Barbara Franklin Enterprises, a management consulting and private investment firm headquartered in Washington, DC, which she started in 1993. She is a leading expert on corporate governance, auditing, and financial reporting practices and she is well-respected in the business community. Throughout her career, Franklin has served as director of fourteen public companies and is currently a director for Aetna Inc. and The Dow Chemical Company. She is also a regulator commentator on the PBS Nightly Business Report, speaking about corporate governance and international economic matters. Additionally, Franklin is currently involved in many organizations, including the Economic Club of New York, a renowned institution that aims to promote the study and discussion of social, economic, and political questions.
Throughout her career, she has received many awards. Most recently in 2007, Franklin was named as one of the top 100 most influential people in governance by the Directorship Magazine. In 2006, she received the Woodrow Wilson Center Award for Public Service, marking her service to the nation under five different presidential administrations. Also, she received the John J. McCloy Award for contributions to audit excellence in 1992, the Director of the Year Award from the National Association of Corporate Directors in 2002, and Outstanding Director Award from the Outstanding Director Exchange in 2003. In 1996, she received the Women Who Make a Difference Award from the International Women’s Forum. She also has received honorary degrees from several colleges and universities, including Drexel University. The Harvard Business School has given her its Alumni Achievement Award. Penn State has recognized her accomplishments and her philanthropic efforts on behalf of the school and its libraries with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
Franklin currently lives in Bristol, Connecticut, and Washington, DC, with her husband, Wallace Barnes, the retired Chairman and CEO of the Barnes Group, Inc.