The Council on Women and Girls is delighted to feature Ambassador Miriam Sapiro from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in our Meet the Women of the Administration series. Ambassador Sapiro is the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative. To get to know more about Ambassador Sapiro, her career, and her inspirations read the following Q and A with her.
Growing up, who were your role models?
Several mentors have had an impact on my career path. Probably my most influential role model is my mother. In addition to her intelligence, warmth and wisdom, she pursued a high-powered career back when few women did. She continued to work after I was born, but only until just after my sister came along. Having a family and a challenging career at the same time in those days was extremely difficult. When she returned to the work force years later, she could not catch up to the level where she would have been had she not left. She never regretted her decision because she loved her family. But her situation taught me the lesson that women should not have to choose between having a career and having a family. I feel lucky to be able to do both.
How did you become interested in working for the federal government?
During law school I had the good fortune to work for a summer in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department. I had always been interested in international economic and political affairs. Once in “L,” as the office is known, I was hooked. There is nothing quite like picking up the phone, finding an international crisis on the other end, and trying to solve it.
This is my second time serving in Government. During the Clinton Administration I had the privilege of serving as Special Assistant to the President at the National Security Council. A decade earlier, I had joined the State Department full-time after graduating from law school and clerking for a federal judge. I worked first in the Office of the Legal Adviser and then on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff. From State I moved to the National Security Council to become Director of European Affairs before being named Special Assistant to the President.
What inspired you to pursue your field of interest?
I have long been fascinated by the workings of government, domestically and internationally. How does government function by and for the people? How does it improve their lives? How do governments work together to address common challenges and concerns? There are of course no simple answers to these complex questions. But learning from history, striving to understand other societies, and thinking creatively how to enable more people to build peaceful, prosperous and democratic societies is essential.
What keeps you motivated?
Having the opportunity to serve as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in President Obama’s Administration is a tremendous honor. Each day holds new possibilities, from laying the foundation for new strategies and policies that can sustain economic growth and promote prosperity, to playing a small part in helping innovators and entrepreneurs realize their dreams. Time passes so quickly -- I try my best to accomplish as much as possible each day.
What has been your favorite moment since you’ve been working at the USTR?
I have had many memorable moments since joining USTR. One I recall with particular fondness was pulling an all-nighter in Tokyo, Japan, to conclude the final round of negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement, known as ACTA. Our goal was to establish for the first time a comprehensive, international framework to help combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, in particular the proliferation of the counterfeiting and piracy that undermines legitimate trade and creates safety risks. Enforcing intellectual property rights is particularly important to protecting American innovation, ingenuity and creativity. Many doubted we could reach this goal, notwithstanding ten rounds of negotiations, but our outstanding and determined team knew it was possible. It was 5:30 in the morning when we finished, but instead of going back to the hotel to catch up on sleep we headed to Tokyo’s Tsukiki Fish Market -- the largest of its kind in the world -- to enjoy fresh sushi for breakfast.
Recently, what has been new and exciting about your work?
This is shaping up to be an exciting year on the trade front. With 95% of the world’s consumers living outside our borders, we must export. And the more we can export, the more jobs we can create and support here at home. My job is to reduce other countries’ trade barriers -- whether tariff or non-tariff -- that hinder the export of American goods and services. As the President said last month, “We need to do what America has always been known for: building, innovating, educating, making things. We don’t want to be a nation that simply buys and consumes products from other countries. We want to create and sell products all over the world that are stamped with three simple words: ‘Made In America.’”
How do you balance work and family life?
With lots of patience and humor. A great team at home - as at work - makes all the difference. Having a wonderful and supportive family, beginning with my husband and including our two children, is essential. I am also grateful for a fantastic baby-sitter, my mother’s willingness to pinch-hit, and the invention of the carpool.
Meet other fascinating administration women by checking out our post on Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank, our post on Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathleen Martinez, our post on Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Claudia Gordon, and our post on Deputy Administrator at NASA Lori Garver.
Maude Baggetto is in the Office of Public Engagement focusing on Women and Girls