Marianne Awburn

I was a teacher originally, and then I worked on a farm full-time for a year before having my first baby. Then when my youngest started kindy, I got a part-time gig at a recruitment company in Te Awamutu that did a lot of mediation work for Rural Support Trust. In my case, that was how I got onto It’s All About YOU.

It’s a programme that focuses on realising your potential – understanding the skills you have. I had three kids quite quickly – they’re now six, eight, and ten – and a husband who has battled quite severe mental health issues. The programme woke me up to the fact that I’d been focusing on everybody else, putting things off and not going after what I wanted. I began to rediscover myself and think, “What is it that I want? What would my dream career look like? How could I make that work and still be there for everyone else?”

I now work as a training advisor for dairy farmers (for Primary ITO/Te Pukenga) Soon after the course, an opportunity came up – the dream job that I’d been searching for. I used skills from the programme to apply, and got it. Then an internal opportunity came up. When I looked at the job description, I remembered that on the course they’d said that a man might look at a job description and go, “I can do most of these things, and these three I’ll easily learn,” whereas a woman will go, “I can do all but this one, so I definitely can’t apply.” I fitted nine out of the ten criteria for that job – it was really just the years of experience that I didn’t have. I didn’t end up getting the position, but out of fifty-eight applicants, I was one of three who got interviewed. I felt really proud about that. And it’s worked out for the best, as my husband Rick and I have started a business that we run on the side.

Rick came up with the idea of a flexible trough arm. Often in summer the cows drink the trough to a low level and start pushing on the valve where the water is coming out and break the arm. If it’s later in the day, it overflows all night and the next morning all your tanks are empty. We took our design to the innovation awards at Fieldays last year in the prototype category and won. We ended up getting into Farmlands in March this year. That was quite a big deal for us.

For me, the biggest take-away from It’s All About YOU was finding confidence in my skills. One of the exercises was a list of typical skills that would be in a job ad – accountant or administrative skills. We were to tick all the boxes that we felt applied to ourselves, and I ticked one out of twenty. Then we talked about what each actually meant, and by the end of it I had ticked sixteen, and half of us were crying. We were like, “We actually have these skills.” We just have to trust ourselves and realise that, yes, we might not have had high-powered CEO jobs, but we really have learned a lot of things in our lives; not think, we can’t do this, we’re just farmers’ wives.


This story has been produced in partnership with the Agri-Women's Development Trust. It is story two of seven in a series that shines a light on how programmes run by AWDT empower women and encourage them to meet their potential, and make a positive impact in New Zealand’s primary sector and rural communities.

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