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Spotlight on Commerce: Tricia Van Orden, Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat, International Trade Administration

Guest blog by Tricia Van Orden, Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat, International Trade Administration

As the Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat, an office within the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), I spend my days developing programs and strategies to promote U.S. exports. I work with a multitude of partners – U.S. trade agencies, state governments, trade associations, universities, and others – to design and deliver practical tools and resources to help U.S. companies succeed in global markets. Since arriving at ITA in 2008 as a Presidential Management Fellow, I have constantly been amazed and inspired by the women around me and their commitment to collaboration, creativity, innovation, and equity.  Whether working on women’s economic empowerment activities or otherwise contributing their expertise to the major trade issues of the day, these colleagues have consistently demonstrated the utmost competence and professionalism.

From a young age, my passion for supporting women’s economic empowerment has stemmed largely from the fearless women leaders who have paved the way for my own advancement. Women college professors and internship supervisors encouraged me to pursue a career in international economics, lighting a path before I knew where my career would take me. After earning degrees in economics and political science from Colorado State and the University of Washington, respectively, I moved to Washington, DC, to pursue a job on Capitol Hill. I interned for the woman senior Senator from my home state, which led to a full-time job with the woman junior Senator, an invaluable experience that taught me how effectively women can lead.

As we address the COVID-19 pandemic’s social and economic repercussions – which disproportionately affect women and women-owned businesses – we should keep in mind the positive impact that global business opportunities can have on recovery and resiliency.  International markets represent untapped potential for women-owned businesses. On average, businesses that export earn higher revenues, pay higher wages and are less likely to go out of business. Going global can help women build more successful, resilient businesses while supporting themselves, their families, their workers, and their communities.

The number of women-led businesses going global is growing, but women lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to international business expansion for a variety of reasons: Women typically have less access to capital than their male counterparts; women may not have the extensive international networks that lead to partnerships and business deals; and, in some countries, there are legal barriers that restrict women’s economic activity. ITA wants to change that. I serve as the agency’s coordinator for women’s economic empowerment activities, with a mandate to dramatically rethink how we deliver our services and share our expertise so that more women-owned businesses are equipped to successfully expand into international markets.

Women’s History Month is a time to honor the hard-won battles of our female forerunners, but it also is an occasion to take stock of our current moment and create a more equitable future for women as individuals and as economic actors. It is my great privilege to contribute to ITA’s mission and women’s economic empowerment efforts.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Women’s History Month.