U.S. Secretary of Labor Ann McLaughlin said she believes more than one woman will run in the primaries for president of the United States in 1992, and a Republican will be the first woman president.

"Trends are changing. Today, because of the persistence of women all over this country, we - a very diverse group of women - have more political and economic clout than at any time in history." McLaughlin made her remarks to some 2,500 Utahns, mostly women, who gathered Friday in Symphony Hall for the annual Utah Women's Conference."Discovering the Diversity and Unity of Women" was sponsored for a fourth year by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as "a springboard for sounding new ideas and a forum for exploring new options."

Concerns affecting Utah women, including single-parent burnout, avoiding the latest financial rip-off, and understanding a woman's health cycle, were a few of the timely topics discussed by national and local leaders in 14 workshops held throughout the day.

Keynoting the conference was McLaughlin, who, as only the second woman to serve as secretary of labor, directs more than 18,000 employees and a budget of more than $24 billion.

Her message to Utah women was a positive one.

"In record numbers, women have found jobs in the private sector during this economic recovery. Half of the country's 18 million new jobs, created since 1982, are held by women," she said. "And these jobs are good jobs. According to a recent analysis by the Council of Economic Advisory, over 85 percent of the increase in full-time employment has been in jobs with annual salaries of over $20,000 or more."

Women, McLaughlin said, are closing the wage gap. The average earnings of women working full time last year were 70 percent of men's wages - up from 64 percent in 1981.

"I tend to regard the broad category of problems known as `women's issues' less in social terms than in economic terms," she stressed. "Women's issues are economic issues, family issues, community issues - in short they are mainstream American issues."

McLaughlin, a former Catholic nun who is married to television talk show host Dr. John McLaughlin, said a pressing issue facing Americans is child care.

"Women will be two-thirds of the work-force growth in the next decade. Eighty percent of these women will be of child-bearing age," she said. "Child care, creative leave policies, flexible hours, work arrangements and benefit packages all must be part of a new employment relationship. Smart employers will offer flexible arrangements to attract workers - men and women - increase employee retention, and improve their business' profit margin."

McLaughlin, who has served both as undersecretary of interior and assistant secretary of the treasury, emphasized that it's misleading to view child care as a "fringe" benefit.

"Children are not peripheral to a working mother or father. They are central," said McLaughlin, who praised Hatch for authoring a child-care bill this year. "And that means `family benefits' must become central to employer. After all, children are not a byproduct. They are the end-product. Children are our future."

Neither Hatch nor McLaughlin - who has served as labor secretary since November 1987 - advocate government intervention in family decisions.