At the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Women’s History Month Symposium on March 8 — International Women’s Day — four acronyms took on important meanings.
The symposium sponsored by the UMBrella Group was broken into a virtual morning session and an afternoon session held in person for the first time since 2019. The event was canceled in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began and held virtually the past two years.
Morning keynote speaker Melissa Berton, MFA, Academy Award-winning producer, founder and executive director of The Pad Project, and high school English teacher, started her virtual presentation talking about what the word “umbrella” means with respect to women.
“As any English teacher worth her salt would do, I looked up ‘umbrella’ in the dictionary and came up with two definitions,” she said. “One, a device used as protection against rain or sun. Two, a protecting force or influence. As we all know, over the centuries, across climates and continents, in rain and sun in every field, women have been umbrellas, protecting forces and influences to the generations of women that come after them. As a teacher of literature that features women and all their power, vulnerability, and beauty, it has been my joy to teach their stories to my students who inherit them.”
Berton said she came up with her own acronym as a way to share her journey from teacher to producer of the 2019 Oscar-winning short documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” and executive director of The Pad Project, which works to increase access to menstrual supplies and menstrual education throughout the world.
“TRUST: Trust your power to make a difference, Risk leaving your comfort zone, Understand your privilege, and let your own inner Student be your Teacher,” said Berton, with her documentary’s poster and her Oscar behind her. “When you can trust these values in yourself and in your partners, you can innovate in ways you never thought possible.”
Tamika Tremaglio, JD ’95, MBA, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, joined Jennifer B. Litchman, MA, senior vice president for external relations, UMB, and founder and chair, UMBrella Group, in a fireside chat at the SMC Campus Center Elm Ballrooms.
Tremaglio discussed author Carla Harris’ acronym PIE — Performance, Image, Exposure — and said most women are incorrectly focusing 90 percent of their time on performance instead of image, which is about confidence and how you carry yourself, and exposure to different people’s stories and other conditions.
“When we get into our job, we put our head down, and we focus on performing,” Tremaglio said. “Most of us are not going to get any position that we’re in because we are not performing. Where are you going to stretch yourself? The reality is, particularly when you get in the workforce, you should be focused on image and exposure. So you should flip it around because none of us are going to fail.”
Tremaglio said when thinking about the obstacles she has faced during her career, she remembers the acronym FEAR, which could stand for “Forget Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise.”
“Sometimes with the experiences that we have, I’m often so surprised that people hadn’t thought about what the lesson was,” she said. “We end up back in the same situation because we haven’t been taught the lesson. So I have learned that through all of those obstacles, I have to step back sometimes and say, ‘What did you come to teach me? What am I going to take from this experience?’ Instead of giving the experience itself power.”