Allison Dembeck Allison Dembeck Vice President of Education and Labor Advocacy, Government Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Published

May 26, 2022

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Women Taking the Lead (WTTL) programis focused on showcasing top executive women, connecting them with a network of allies who will champion their work, and providing these leaders with professional growth opportunities to drive change in C-Suites, boardrooms, and congressional and corner offices in DC and throughout the country. 

Each month we highlight a female leader within the U.S. Chamber membership to showcase how women are currently leading in all areas of the business community.  In honor of International Trade month in May, we are highlighting Emily Beline, Senior Counsel for International Regulatory Affairs with FedEx.  In this capacity, she represents FedEx in regulatory and trade matters with an emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region.  Emily advocates for FedEx before various U.S. government agencies, international fora, and collaboratively with other industry stakeholders.  Read more about Emily in her own words below.

Q: Tell us about FedEx and the trade priorities for the company.  

A: Trade is our business at FedEx, and we move on average more than 18 million shipments each day through our network that connects 220 countries and territories. Our company plays a critical role in expanding global trade, helping to build nimble supply chains and delivering local products and services to customers around the world. We know that everyone benefits when it is easier to bring new ideas and products to the global market.  

 As longtime advocates on trade policy, we are focused on breaking down trade barriers and helping our customers reach new markets. We work to address trade barriers - especially non-tariff barriers, such as restrictive data flows, local content requirements, and customs regulations - to the extent they contribute to slow and inefficient service for our customers. The company continues to offer its expertise and engagement around high standard trade agreements that benefit small and medium-sized customers through increased access to new markets, streamlined customs processes and increased international regulatory cooperation.  

Q: Why is Fed Ex focusing on centering women’s leadership in trade, particularly in African trade policy?

A: We see trade as an opportunity to empower women and advance economic opportunity for women worldwide. Seeing women holding some of the most powerful positions in trade – like the incredible women serving as Director-General of the WTO or the U.S. Trade Representative, for instance – makes the role women can play in trade more visible than ever.   

As the World Bank and the WTO described in their 2020 joint report, “Women and Trade: The Role of Trade in Promoting Women’s Equality,” trade can dramatically improve women’s lives and even “increase women’s bargaining power in society.” This same study found that women who are employed in sectors that export are more likely to be employed in the formal economy and have higher salaries than women who aren’t. Women in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular are likely to be employed in the informal economy – some 90% of women with jobs in this region are employed informally.   

Overall, we see the African continent as a large growth market for trade and think our network can play an important role in connecting African entrepreneurs with consumers around the world. FedEx just launched its first scheduled flight into Kenya, which will strengthen global market access for entrepreneurs across East and Central Africa.  

And at FedEx, we strive to help entrepreneurs in Africa consider trade opportunities from the earliest days of their business. FedEx has supported Junior Achievement Africa and their annual Company of the Year competition for more than a decade, where high school students across Africa use their entrepreneurial skills to pitch their own businesses to a panel of experts. Young women have excelled in the competition in recent years – including the latest winners from Nova Pioneer Tatu Girls High School in Kenya. Clearly there is a great generation of women leaders in trade still ahead!

Q: Tell us about your role at FedEx and what brought you to focus in this space? 

A: My role at FedEx is twofold. First, I provide support to my colleagues in Africa, the Middle East, India, and Asia-Pacific on U.S. laws and regulations that may impact FedEx business, operations, and relationships abroad. I engage with U.S. government officials and the diplomatic community on issues important to FedEx, and I engage directly with our regulators in the trade space – often USTR, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Commerce, among others. I also frequently work with our key trade associations on issues important to FedEx – namely, the free flow of goods across borders, trade and customs matters. In a second capacity, I serve as in-house counsel to the FedEx Dangerous Goods Administration. FedEx carries many of the world’s goods that are classified as dangerous goods.  So, I advise my internal client on compliance matters regarding the safe carriage of dangerous goods, which needs to be done in accordance with U.S. domestic law, international law, and the laws of the 220 countries and territories we operate in. I also engage with U.S. government regulators at the Department of Transportation.  

I focused on international trade while in law school and, while it seems somewhat circuitous, I am really proud of the path my career has taken.  My first job after law school was at the Canadian Embassy here in Washington (I am a Canadian citizen!) which was a crash course in diplomacy and customs and border issues. Inspired by that experience, I sought to practice law for the U.S. government and thereafter joined CBP in the Office of Trade. Seeking litigation experience, I transferred to the Department of Commerce, focusing on trade remedies. But throughout my path, I kept in touch with many of the companies and people that I met in my first job at the Embassy.  It was after gaining some excellent experience with the government that FedEx asked me to join their team!   

Q: What opportunities in increasing women’s involvement in trade has you most excited?  

A: I came into my role as President of the Association of Women in International Trade, or WIIT, with twin goals – empowerment and efficiency.  I challenged the membership and WIIT officers to get more involved, take on new and different leadership roles and continuously identify places where WIIT could be more inclusive. I also reviewed the organization top to bottom to ensure that efficiencies were captured in its structure and management.  WIIT’s membership has increased tremendously over the years that I have been a member, and I am so proud of the role that it plays in Washington, the work that our membership does, and the programming that we produce.  I encourage everyone of any sex or gender to seek WIIT out, to become a member, and to volunteer to help make our organization even better. 

Q: How would you recommend others get started with trade policy—are there particular resources you’ve found helpful? 

A: It is never too early – or too late! I focused on trade law while in law school at the University of Pittsburgh, which by the way has a great program through the Center for International Legal Education.  But I’ve always had an interest and focused my studies at Pitt Law on private and public international law. I moved to Washington DC after law school and at the height of the 2008 recession when legal jobs were hard to come by. I prioritized networking because I realized early on, sending hundreds of resumes to hiring managers at every firm in DC just was not going to do it. So I joined professional organizations that were populated with attorneys and professionals that focused on trade law and trade policy – the American Bar Association has several sections on trade and international law, the Customs & International Trade Bar Association, and, of course, Women in International Trade. Each of those organizations offers niche programming and accompanying networking opportunities. Listening to experts discuss and debate trade issues gave me a peak behind the curtain, enhanced my understanding of issues of importance, and helped me narrow my professional goals. Through networking, I landed my first job at the Embassy of Canada as locally-engaged staff.  

Q: What does success for women in trade mean to you?  

A: It is somewhat dangerous to identify a bright line for “success” because it implies that once success by one person’s definition is reached, then there is no further work to be done highlighting the amazing perspectives and skills offered by women and other historically underrepresented groups. Certainly, the day a woman is President of the United States will be a happy day indeed! I was very proud to recently meet Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, the DG of the WTO.  When women lead at the highest levels of government, multilateral institutions, that is a mark of success that should be celebrated. But our celebration shouldn’t indicate that this upward trajectory for women is but another stepping stone along the pathway toward success – because even with women leading at these levels, there are other women still stuck in cycles of poverty, lacking resources or access to education, capital, financing, and other means of supporting themselves and their families.  When I think of another step towards “success,” I think of women who have entrepreneurial ambitions to engage in trade and do business across borders.  The day we can eliminate barriers to entry for these women to achieve their dreams, I think that will be another mark of success to be celebrated. 

Q: What does business mean to you?   

A: You know that meme of the penguin with the hat and the suitcase? That is business. No other definition can so accurately encapsulate what business means to me. 

Q: What advice would you give to a woman just entering your field of work?

A: Cultivate a reputation of being nice. From interactions with staff at the front door, to assistants, to principals, regardless of the pedigree of your education or where you are from or grew up, people reciprocate when you are nice. Importantly, being nice does not mean being a push-over. There are ways to stake out your points while being respectful to others. Your reputation stays with you.    

Q: What motivates you to wake up and go to work?  

A: I graduated during one of the worst times to graduate law school in the last 20 years. I’ve worked hard to get into my field, and I want to be the best at what I do.  That fire in the belly motivates me. And, not for nothing, but I enjoy the work I do, and I like my colleagues. Often, I get to work with friends from other companies and at trade associations. That helps on days that are challenging! 

Q: Do you listen to podcasts? If so, is there one or two – work/leadership-related or not – you would recommend?  

A: I listen to Stuff You Should Know and Smartless because my brain needs a break sometimes!  But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve engaged in small talk concerning something I heard on one of these podcasts.  

Q: Do you have a favorite women-owned business/entrepreneur? If so, what business is it and why?   

A: I do not know her personally, but Suann Song, is the Founder and CEO of Appointed.  It is a notebook and paper goods store located in Ivy City. I prefer to write things down on paper (yes kids, paper still exists) and each notebook of hers is a work of art. Ms. Song’s company also has a strong sustainability commitment, supports women, and women of color. I envy those with an entrepreneurial spirit, and her story is so inspiring. Nearly everyone in my life has received these as gifts over the past few years. I may be addicted.  

About the authors

Allison Dembeck

Allison Dembeck

Vice President of Education and Labor Advocacy, Government Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Allison L. Dembeck is vice president of education and labor advocacy in the Government Affairs Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, focusing on education, labor, and workforce development issues.

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