Melody Barnes also told more than 1,500 people at the North Carolina's Governor's Conference for Women now isn't the time to become complacent after a series of gender advancements over the past generation in industry, education and government service they helped create.
"You are proof that we can break down barriers, we can set aside outdated assumptions so that the American dream does indeed exist for all of us," Barnes said at the Raleigh Convention Center. "Our legacy to the next generation must be an America where women can fulfill their promise, pursue their dreams and become powerful, accomplished women just like you."
The implementation of the law is threatened after Republican wins on Election Day, but Barnes did not address the GOP's gains or what would happened to women's health care if parts of the law were repealed.
Barnes, a Virginia native who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, headlined an event that included dozens of female speakers, including actresses Andie MacDowell and Gabourey Sidibe and Gov. Beverly Perdue, the state's first woman governor.
Perdue, a Democrat, said she's succeeded and failed in public service and had to fight her way through stereotypes, but it's been great to see more women in places of leadership. She points out an increasing number of female corporate executives she's talking to when trying to lure companies to expand in North Carolina.
"Decisions look different when women are seated at the decision-making table," Perdue said to applause. "We are everywhere and we're making an incredible difference."
Former New York Times reporter Sheryl WuDunn also spoke about challenges for women in the developing world such as sex trafficking, death during childbirth and economic independence.
Barnes touted the Obama agenda for its efforts to reduce obesity in children, improve math and science education and work to eliminate pay disparities among men and women.
She said the Affordable Care Act, the title of the health care overhaul law, will help girls and boys by requiring pediatric health care insurance, dental and vision benefits and extend a health insurance plan for children in low-income families for another two years.
Under the law, nursing women who return to work will be guaranteed reasonable time to breast feed during the day and women will be barred from having to pay higher premiums due to their gender.
"Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition," Barnes said.
Republicans who took a majority in the House and narrowed the gap with Democrats in the Senate have said they want to rein in the overhaul by cutting off money to carry out the law and to hold oversight hearings.
The conference, which receives no state funding, has been held four times, but this is the first in which the governor's title has been attached to the event.