The State Services Commission is pleased to announce Lou Parker as recipient of the 2013 Ria McBride Award - which recognises outstanding women public servants.
Lou Parker was born in Sheffield, England. At age 30 years, as a single mother of two, her then neighbour offered to look after Lou's children so she could go to work and earn some extra income to support the family. Lou managed to secure a role in the retail store Top Shop, where she worked for several years before setting up her own small tailoring business.
When Lou's car broke down and she couldn't afford to have it fixed, Lou enrolled herself in night classes where she learnt about repairing engines. Her tutor, who worked at the local City Council, told Lou about a job going in the engineering workshop as a Small Plant Fitter. Although the workshop was male dominated Lou applied and successfully secured the role - beginning her career as a Mechanical Fitter - one of 19 female council employees carrying out manual roles at the time.
Lou spent nine years with the Council - seven of them repairing and maintaining plant, vehicles and machinery. Her dream job was to work in trading standards enforcement, but it was difficult to move there from a manual role. However, after a series of secondments she achieved that goal. In that role Lou was responsible for the enforcement of laws controlling the accuracy, description, price, quality, quantity and safety of goods and services. After four years she had quickly reached the United Kingdom's 'glass ceiling' in this industry.
Looking for a new direction, Lou immigrated to New Zealand in 2007, setting herself up in Wellington. She worked briefly for the Commerce Commission and the Ministry of Economic Development (as it was then - now MBIE) as a Product Safety Advisor. There she was responsible for researching and developing safety standards across a wide range of products.
In this role she: developed a regulatory response to ensure safe multi-purpose ladders are now supplied in New Zealand; produced an Unsafe Goods Notice in 2009 to stop chainsaws being brought into New Zealand without a chain brake; worked to raise awareness and established product safety standards for products that are retailed through Discount Stores.
Most recently Lou has worked with Massey University to produce a research paper about children and dangerous toys. Whilst Lou does not hold a degree, we are reliably informed that the paper about to be published is the most comprehensive work ever undertaken on this topic.
According to Lou's referee, Dr Stuart McLaren of Massey University, Lou completed an enormous amount of detailed work and provided extremely insightful analysis. She undertook international research outside her area of expertise which Dr McLaren says has put this paper 'up ahead of the game in this area - no other paper comes anywhere near to this'. Dr McLaren presented the paper in Prague in 2012 and then co-presented with Lou at the World Health & Safety conference in Wellington in 2013.
Lou now wishes to move ahead with her career and is hoping to pursue a course of study that will enable her to take on bigger and more challenging management roles. And we, at the Commission, wish her all the very best of luck with those endeavours - not that she seems to need it. The Ria McBride Award will offer Lou that opportunity.