Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Landisville, Lancaster County
Awards: Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service, Directorship Magazine 100 Hall of Fame, BusinessWeek Top 25 Female Corporate Directors, National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Directorship Hall of Fame, Outstanding Director Exchange’s Outstanding Director Award, Financial Executives International Hall of Fame, Lifetime Achievement Award in US-China Relations, Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, John J. McCloy Award, The International Alliance for Women’s Women Who Make a Difference Award, Harvard Alumni Achievement Award, PSU Distinguished Alumni Award
Barbara Hackman Franklin was born in Lancaster in 1940. After graduating from Penn State University in 1962, she received her MBA 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. After returning to the business world, she was appointed as the 29th Secretary of Commerce by President George H. W. Bush. At the time of this writing, she serves as 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. She attended Hempfield High School and graduated in 1958 as the valedictorian of her class. After high school, Franklin moved on to Pennsylvania State University, where she became involved in student government and the Mortar Board honor society. The school’s Dean of Women nominated Franklin for a scholarship for Harvard Business School. In 1962, Franklin 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 MBA 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 Assistant Vice President at Citibank from 1969 to 1971.
In 1971, Franklin was commissioned to be Staff Assistant to the President by the Nixon administration to recruit talented women into leadership positions in the federal government. At the time of Nixon’s presidency, 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 for President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration and Oveta Culp Hobby was the Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare for President 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 twelve women serving in the House of Representatives. While Franklin served in her role as Staff Assistant for only two years, she is credited with advancing the role of women in governmental positions. Franklin was nominated and confirmed as the Commissioner of the newly established Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1973, where she worked for six years, later climbing the ranks to Vice Chairman. She also became a co-founder of Executive Women in Government (EWG) in 1973, an organization with the goal of bringing more women into governmental leadership positions.
In 1979, Franklin returned to the business world and 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 the role by both President Reagan and President H. W. Bush.
Franklin returned to the political realm in 1992 and 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, President H. W. Bush said that they share the same priorities of "jobs and economic growth." The President also called Franklin "a leader and role model for many women in business."
On February 27, 1992, Franklin was sworn in as the 29th Secretary of Commerce becoming the 13th woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet. 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.
When Franklin's appointment ended in January 1993 she returned to the private sector. At the time of this writing, she is President and Chief Executive Officer of Barbara Franklin Enterprises, a management consulting and private investment firm headquartered in Washington, DC. Franklin is a leading expert on corporate governance, auditing, and financial reporting practices, and is well-respected in the business community. Throughout her career, Franklin has served as director of fourteen public companies. Additionally, Franklin has been 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 received many awards. Highlights of these awards are her inductions into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Financial Executives International Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2007, 2009, and 2014, 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. 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.
“[T]he effort shook loose the bureaucracy,” she says of advocating for women via the Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 in an oral history interview with Jean Rainey, “and that may be the most lasting effect, the fact that the Federal government bureaucracy committed to advancing women. I think the whole thing just rippled out into society. So I'm quite proud of that.”
At the time of this writing, Franklin lives in Bristol, Connecticut, and Washington, DC, in family homes she once shared with her late husband, Wallace Barnes, who passed away in 2020. The two married in 1986, and together they raised two children, Thomas O. Barnes and Jarre Ann Barnes Betts.