Close

The NZ Hi-Tech Trust announces Jennifer Rutherford as new chair, plus a greater focus on diversity

Jennifer Rutherford has been named as the Hi-Tech Trust’s new chair and has vowed to help with the organisation’s newly announced goal to encourage more diversity in the sector. She fills the gap left by Wayne Norrie, who stepped down from after 10 years at the helm in May. 

Rutherford is an existing Hi-Tech trustee who has had a career spanning more than 20 years in the IT sector.

She’s previously held senior roles at Hewlett Packard and Cisco, as well as being the director of member and government relations at NZ Tech. She currently is government segments propositions manager at Spark Digital NZ.

She says she’ll helping shine a spotlight on the New Zealand tech sector, with one of her goals being to support and recognise the rapidly growing diversity in the industry.

In a LinkedIn post earlier this month, Rutherford discussed how she’d always thought herself to be an advocate of diversity – until she heard a diversity panel speak at an NZTech event.

She says listening to the different speakers made her realise she wasn’t being active enough, and the talks inspired her to embrace diversity not just morally, but for the good of society and the economic health of businesses.

“With all that listening, I have realised that I need to wake up, and be more of an advocate for change, be more of a challenger of the system, bring back my whole self to the most important contribution that I can make to society as I see it.”

This will be a clear focus for her legacy at the Hi-Tech Trust, which at the same time announced its 2018 awards will have a far greater focus on diversity in the tech industry.

Vend founder Vaughan Rowsell, who has been appointed deputy chair alongside Rutherford, says the Trust has a diverse new board, categories, judges and judging criteria, with the goal to consider and promote diversity in the sector.

Questions are going to be introduced across some of the categories around how well a company is doing in regards to diversity and sustainability.

Rutherford has also received the blessing of her predecessor, Wayne Norrie, who spent 10 years shaping the Hi-Tech Awards into what it is today.

Norrie says it’s time for fresh blood to take the reins at the Hi-Tech Trust to take it to the next level.

“Jen is the perfect person to bring the qualities needed to further our goals, and unite them with the goals of the wider New Zealand tech sector,” he says. “Jen and the team are well positioned to bring a new level of leadership to our journey.”

Alongside the Hi-Tech Trust’s changes, other organisations have made moves to encourage more diversity in the tech sector.

Earlier this month, The Ministry For Women and NZTech released a guide to help education providers attract and retain more women into the tech industry. 

The Absolute IT Remuneration Report released last year showed a diversity gap when it came to gender, with men making up 79 percent of New Zealand’s technology sector and women making up just 21 percent.

“The business case for greater gender balance is strong. Tech firms that have equal number of women and men are up to 40 percent more profitable. Women make up 51 percent of the population,” NZTech national director of government relations Andrea Hancox said.

“Studies show more diverse organisations deliver better revenue and profitability, a clear sign tech is a great career for women. Tech companies often don’t reflect the customers they are trying to sell to and therefore under-represent their reach and capabilities.”

 The full line up of 2018 Hi-Tech Awards categories will be announced in September, with entries and nominations opening in late November.

The awards dinner will be held in Christchurch in May, 2018.