Lucy Perry – Awesome Woman

Under The Pink

Miriam Hechtman

10924614_931251076899300_3269312397882000703_nI don’t usually give people the title ‘awesome’ but in this case I think it’s a fair call. (Especially after Lucy scrambled to get me these answers with 24 hours notice that I wanted to publish this on IWD.) Lucy Perry is the CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and I’ve been tracking her awesomeness for some time now while she has raised more than $6.5M in just over two years since her appointment. She went from volunteer to CEO in eight years and was appointed to the role by Dr Catherine Hamlin in 2012 when it was time to launch a business model for funding Dr Hamlin’s legacy.

A few quick pointers about Lucy:

  • Lucy is the first and only Australian to be listed in the world’s top 30 charity #socialceos
  • She is a recipient of a Kindness Award from the Wake Up Project
  • Lucy won the Emerging Leader in the not-for-profit Sector Award in the 2015 NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards
  • Lucy has been nominated many times and shortlisted twice in the Telstra Business Women of the Year Awards
  • She was a founding director of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia) and is a member of the Fundraising Institute of Australia
  • Lucy is a published author and the creator of the world’s first childbirth education program specifically for men which she franchised and is now run in pubs all over Australia.
  • You can read more about Lucy here and more about Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia here. 

With her trademark pink mohawk and edgy, inspirational talk – I give you – Lucy Perry. (You’ll all be following her on social media after this!)

Happy International Women’s Day!

1. What is the essence of being a woman?

I really do not know. I can only tell you what is the essence of being me. I am Lucy. I have many faults but I am outrageously determined, ambitious and motivated to support disadvantaged women in Ethiopia where the gender equality journey is only in its infancy. This is a horrible question! I really don’t know what is the essence of being a woman.

2. What do you feel unites women?

We are all on the same ridiculous journey to achieve equality for women. That binds us together as a team of underdogs! I describe it as ridiculous because it seems that way to me: women are humans – just as awesome and flawed as men. Why on earth would we be paid less, promoted less or educated less? It’s beyond me. One day, inequality of the sexes will seem as staggeringly inhumane and stupid as slavery.

3. How do you stay strong, assertive and feminine?

I think the only way to stay strong and assertive is to be absolutely sure of your success. No one can shake you then. I have zero tolerance for cynicism. This undermines any work place, any project. I do not tolerate it in my team and I watch for it carefully in myself. Cynics spell the death of awesome!

10926367_925821247442283_1869951837477257348_n4. What and who inspires you?

Dr Catherine Hamlin has been my inspiration for about a decade. Everything she does, she does with kindness, turbo-charged with mountains of hard work. The brave obstetric fistula patients in Ethiopia inspire me every day. Their grace and gratitude is remarkable given the suffering they have been through. I’m so very impressed and inspired by our young Ethiopian midwifery students who work extremely hard to gain a 4 year degree in midwifery before they head into remote areas of Ethiopia to face the challenges of maternity care in isolated villages where the need is so great. High fives to them for their courage and determination to bring a clean, safe birth to women in rural Ethiopia, in very challenging conditions!

5. How do you live your life so it has meaning?

I ran a creative services firm for 20 years. We provided design and advertising to major Australian brands. If I used all my skills in communication and worked really hard, a client of mine would sell more concrete. Hmph. Now that I am in a role that fuels my passion for women’s health, I can use that same skill-set and women on the other side of the world have their lives transformed. That’s a pretty fabulous feeling and it gives so much meaning to my life. One of my kids said to me, as she sat on the end of my bed while I packed for an overseas trip, “Mum, we are so proud of you.” If I can do something that is enriching to some of the most marginalised women in the world, while fulfilling my life in a meaningful way AND set an example to my kids in a meaningful and positive way, I do believe I have a win-win-win in the meaningful department.

6. What contribution would you like to make to benefit humankind?

I would like to be part of the team that makes Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia the benchmark for a number of important things:

1. The best place to work in the world

2. The most sustainable and efficient humanitarian project in the world

3. The most highly regarded network of hospitals and midwifery school in the world

If we can achieve these goals, the women of Ethiopia will stand to benefit the most! We will eradicate Ethiopia of obstetric fistula altogether and can then move into general obstetrics to focus on giving Ethiopian women a clean, safe birth and postpartum care. Give us 10 years and we’ll conquer that goal.

7. How do you stay calm under pressure?

When I am under the pump, I stay focussed on the absolutely essential priorities in front of me. If I can knock off those priorities one at a time, the pressure will ease. In more acute pressure situations like live TV interviews or a very important negotiation, I always define for myself what’s the most critical outcome I need to get from that situation. I define it for myself before I dive in and then I make sure I am focussed on that important outcome. I often remind myself to listen in high pressure situations. Listen more than I talk.

8. How do you move from dream into action into completion?

I’m a dreamer and a doer. Lots of my dreams don’t make it to completion but that’s OK. Dreaming is fun. I had to teach my husband to dream without limits. I would suggest some mad plan and he would see the stumbling blocks to that idea. He’d see all the problems. I would say “Just dream without checking if we’re insured for that! Just dream and explore and see where your mind takes you. Dreams are not real, they’re just ideas.” He reminded me once that sometimes I express “dreams” and within 24 hours I’ve launched the concept online and it is selling! So he’s right when he says that he sometimes needs to say “Perry, that’s a stupid idea.”

When I have a big fundraising idea (and these usually come to me when I am running or in the shower!) I test the idea first then break it up into lots of small steps – hopefully a number of those steps can be delegated to others so that the idea can mobilise quickly. I set an audacious deadline and then pedal like there’s no tomorrow! I move at a very quick pace and then I move on to the next big idea.

9. Three words to describe how you maintain a life balance.

I DO NOT. Those are my three words. I don’t maintain a “life balance” very well at all. I am me and I have 24 hours a day to be me and live my life. Much of the time that is not a very balanced 24 hours but I’m OK with that. Balance is overrated!

10. If you could ask any woman one question, what would you ask?

What’s your story? It’s a very open question and lets people be as broad or as detailed as they like. It often gets right to the core of what people are carrying with them but have never been asked to express.