Kathryn De Bruin

Horticulture NZ
What Board are you on?

Horticulture New Zealand Board.

Tell us about one of those Boards

The Hort NZ Board is the pan-sector board for the horticulture industry.

Did you get on to the Board the first time you tried?
If not, how long/how many attempts did it take?
Do you think being a woman was a barrier to getting onto this Board?

I first stood for the HortNZ board in 2018. I was not successful the first time around so I made the decision to stand again the following year.
I do not believe being a woman was a barrier. I had to get out there and promote myself and I believe for an elected position, anyone needs to do that. An incumbent male board member stood against me and I was the successful candidate.

How did you prepare or promote yourself for the nomination/appointment process?

I actually got a PR consultant to help me co-ordinate my campaign both times. I am not a words person and as I really wanted the position I knew that I had to be prepared to spend the time and the money to get there.
I had them write my bio for the nomination form, which then coordinated with my campaign speech and my social media presence. I also made sure my work website and Linked In page also had the same messaging.
I spent a lot of time on the phone talking to people. You would be amazed how much information about people can be found via Google when you are prepared to spend the time thinking outside the square as to how you can get the names and phone numbers of people involved in horticulture. There are lists in the public domain and I made the most of those and the White Pages!

Are there any other women on the Board and if not, are there any issues for you being the only woman?

There is one other woman on the board of HortNZ, and when I started the Associate director was female. Issues, as a woman not really, but I do not fit the mold and that has possibly been the thing that I have found the hardest to be accepted on.

What is the most onerous part of being on the Board?

For me it is the travel. But I chose to live where I do so I cannot really complain about that.

What do you feel you bring to this Board?

Something different. I have a different background, job and training than anyone else on the board so have quite a different perspective on issues.

Have you got any tips/advice for women wanting to get onto a Board?

Do the background work. Talk to people, form alliances and most of all do not be afraid to ask for help.

Are they appointed Directorships or were you elected onto the Board?

Elected position – was elected on in 2019.

Do you have a specific responsibility or portfolio on the Board?

I am on the audit and risk committee. I am a Chartered Accountant so I have skills that are pertinent to this committee.

Did you have any governance training?

Yes. I have done the 5 directors course and some follow up modules from that. I also was lucky enough to do the Agri Womens Development Trust Escalator Program in 2017 and this really set me on the pathway that I am on now. I think the training is important. Being a director is quite different with the way you think and have to act when comparing it to running your own business. I also have found out that different boards work differently and it is important to have a good basic understanding so you can adapt to working in a different way with each.
I have had extensive non-horticulture board experience at my local level. School boards, local sporting and community groups, local Womens Refuge. While this helped a little there is definitely a step up moving beyond local to national level organisations and the formal training helped me prepare for this.

How much time is involved in being on this Board?

The meetings take me 2 very full days, half a day to prepare, half a day to travel and then the day of the meeting. I spend a lot of time reading widely but this is something I have always done and so is not specific to being on this board. If you did not do this, then this is something you would need to do as well. I find there are other outside meeting commitments occasionally and for me so far these have not been onerous. With the recent Covid 19 crisis we have moved to online meetings more frequently, but the time commitment is about the same as there is no travel involved.

What is the best part of being on the Board?

I like the big picture, whole industry aspect of it. I work in a small rural town and am focused on issues that are very specific to my clients and their businesses. The board allows me to move outside of this and think and look broader. I also like the networking with completely different people that being on the board allows.

Do you think being a woman is of value to this Board? If so, how?

Yes, from the simple fact of bringing in diversity and different experiences.

Are there any other comments you’d like to make?

Go for it!