Dr Emma Parry is the epitome of success – she’s one of the country’s most specialised doctors leading the way in women’s health and has many accolades to her name, including NEXT Woman of the Year 2010, Finalist in the Westpac Women of Influence Awards (2013).
But it’s not always been an easy road making her mark as a woman in this world.
“I’m a white, blonde female. I fit in generally, but because I am someone who likes to make change, that can be challenging for people. Throughout my career I’ve done things other people don’t want me to do. I guess I have experienced the ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. As I’ve got older, I’ve learnt to embrace that if someone is going to put me down then I must be doing it right! If I’m ruffling feathers I must be doing something that is going to make a change,” she says.
Dr Parry is a Specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and a Subspecialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine. She works at Auckland City Hospital which has one of the largest maternity units in New Zealand and is Clinical Director of the New Zealand Maternal Fetal Medicine Network.
It was her dream from a young age to pursue a career in the medical field as she grew up in the UK surrounded by doctors.
“My mum was a medical secretary. She did well at university but was told that because she was woman she couldn’t go to university. She become a medical secretary. I attended a big school with 1300 children but the level of achievement was low and only a small percentage went on to university. I had fantastic support from my mum and dad which made me think becoming a doctor was possible. I was hopeless at physics and chemistry but they paid for a tutor and I was the first person in 10 years from my school to go to medical school.”
Dr Parry, who has two teenage daughters of her own and lives in Auckland, believes that you can make anything happen and create opportunities if you follow your passion.
“When I became a junior doctor working in England in the early 1990s there was still a lot of discrimination around women at that time; There was no expectation you would become a specialist once you had done your medical qualification if you were a woman.”
She overcame discrimination to carve out her successful career, which has seen her travel to Bhutan to assist with the inception and development of a perinatal unit and countrywide network. Deaths and serious injury for mothers and babies has now started to fall as a result of this initiative and many others.
Dr Parry has some valuable advice for young women; “You will always come across people who will try to put you down and will be negative. It’s hard when you are a young teenager as you don’t have much resilience. But the key is to find the right supporters. I have several mentors for different parts of my life. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people that support you and also it is good to pay it forward and support other people.”
“I think SOUL is fantastic for that – it’s a diverse group of young women who are starting to confront a lot of issues that up until now have not been well challenged. It really impressed me meeting some of the SOULsistas – they all had different views on what they want to do with their lives but all got along so well.”