Despite a lack of encouragement to study STEM subjects, more and more women are looking to get into tech. Happily, the grocery sector offers plenty of strong, female role models

It felt really intimidating” says Suzi Filipowska of her move into the male-dominated world of tech. “You’re hyper-aware of your position.”

Filipowska is one of nine women hired by HelloFresh via its Women in Tech scholarship since 2021 and now works as a front-end engineer for the recipe box brand. Coming from a non-tech background meant the move was undoubtedly “daunting”, she says.

“These feelings are something that many women pursuing careers in technology have come up against,” says Annie Meininghaus, HelloFresh global senior VP, product management, and the company’s gender equality team lead. “We need the best possible tech talent to keep introducing sector-leading solutions for HelloFresh. And ultimately our global customer base benefits from initiatives that focus on recruiting more women for tech roles.”

Filipowska is one of a growing number of women starting off or switching careers into tech-related roles – where, in Europe, 25% of positions are held by women, according to McKinsey. In the UK the figure is 26%, a 2023 Tech Nation survey shows. The situation is improving, but slowly – up from 19% in 2019.

hydroponic farm GettyImages-1253646429

Source: Getty Images

In Europe, 25% of tech-related positions are held by women, while in the UK the figure is 26%

According to Kantar research commissioned by HelloFresh, almost three in four women between the ages of 16 and 27 in the UK consider working in tech to be prestigious, but are far less likely than men to pursue a career in the sector.

“Women face numerous challenges in securing tech roles, including structural barriers, societal biases and lack of representation. Additionally, there’s often a lack of access to mentorship and networking opportunities, which are crucial for career advancement in tech,” says Cecilia Harvey, founder of Tech Women Today.

There is also a “stark pipeline problem”, says Anna Brailsford, CEO and co-founder of social enterprise Code First Girls, which provides free coding courses to women.

“Our customer base benefits from initiatives that focus on recruiting more women” 

 Annie Meininghaus, HelloFresh

A Code First Girls survey found 22% of those on its courses said their school didn’t encourage them to study STEM, 15% said that they didn’t study STEM because they weren’t confident enough and 14% didn’t think that they had the right skills. That has consequences. Analysis by Code First Girls finds that as it stands there will be one qualified woman for every 115 roles by 2025.

There are positive signals. The number of young women in the UK applying to start computing degrees is increasing, and in fmcg many big players have initiatives to encourage more women into tech-related roles. Others provide mentorship programmes and go above and beyond to provide family-friendly, inclusive working environments. The sector has some natural advantages, too.

“When an industry is already perceived as ‘women-friendly’, particularly at the entry level, it tends to be more appealing to women who may otherwise find themselves in male-dominated roles,” says Brailsford.


More power lists:


Harvey agrees. “The sector often prioritises diversity and inclusion, recognising the value of different perspectives in driving innovation and growth,” she says. “Additionally, there are more accessible entry points for women, particularly in areas like retail technology and supply chain management.”

But one of its most powerful actions is having women at the top in tech roles.

“We know representation is key. The more we have these role models at senior level, the more diverse talent we can hope to recruit at entry level,” says Meininghaus.

In that respect, grocery is ahead of the game, as our power list evidences.

“We have a lot to learn from the retail and supermarket sectors as they have a brilliant track record of building their women up from entry level to leadership positions,” says Brailsford. “There are many examples of women starting their career on the floor packing shelves [before] becoming heads of departments years down the line. The industry appears to focus on building a strong pipeline of diverse talent that can rise into the most senior positions, which is very refreshing.”

The women in our power list, then, are doing more than just a great job at work. With almost half (49%) of young women in the HelloFresh survey saying that seeing more women in leadership roles would encourage them to enter the sector, they are inspiring others to join them.


g2416_powerlist headshots_

Rachel Higham

Chief digital & technology officer, M&S

Higham will take over responsibility for the retailer’s data and technology teams later this year. Currently chief information officer at advertising giant WPP, she’ll bring extensive experience in digital functions across major corporates including BT, Vodafone, and Chubb. Her appointment “reflects the importance of digital” to the “next phase of our transformation” says M&S boss Stuart Machin.


g2416_powerlist headshots_2

Suzy McClintock

Grocery and retail VP, Deliveroo

McClintock’s career started in television. But if working on Have I Got News for You and Horrible Science seemed fun from the outside, “everyone looked miserable” inside the industry, she says. After completing an MBA, she moved into tech with Amazon and then became global strategy lead for Amazon Fresh. She’s not looked back since and is now responsible for grocery and beyond at Deliveroo.


g2416_powerlist headshots_3

Hannah Gibson

CEO, Ocado Retail

Gibson had spent more than a decade within Ocado Group before being made CEO of Ocado Retail in late 2022. Having been chief product officer for Ocado Technology, and earlier taking the concept of Ocado Zoom to launch in two years, her “exceptional working knowledge” of Ocado’s tech and “clear passion for product and customer” makes her the ideal leader, says M&S boss Stuart Machin.


g2416_powerlist headshots_4

Claire Pointon

MD, Just Eat UK

Claire Pointon likes to win. Her lifelong maxims? “Focus” and “What are you going to win?” she says. Pointon was appointed Just Eat UK & Ireland’s managing director in May, joining from John Lewis, where she’d been customer director for three years. “I wanted to be in a business I could have an impact on,” Pointon says. Having made a successful move into grocery, she will oversee its next big move, towards non-food.


g2416_powerlist headshots_5

Clodagh Moriarty

Chief retail & technology officer, Sainsbury’s

Moriarty was promoted last year from chief retail and digital officer to this new role, taking on the responsibilities of former chief information officer Phil Jordan – in addition to her store and online integration remit with Sainsbury’s, Argos, Tu, Sainsbury’s Bank and Nectar. It’s a tough job, but the ex-Bain consultant has excelled in all roles since joining a decade ago.


g2416_powerlist headshots_6

Kate Hofman

Founder, GrowUp Farms

The pioneering founder of GrowUp Farms, Hofman has taken the concept of vertical farming from a small aquaponic unit in London to the expansive Pepperness facility in Kent. Unique among UK vertical farms because it uses on-site renewable energy – meaning it grows food with a lighter environmental footprint – it is the first vertical farm to sell a branded bagged salad in a major UK supermarket.


g2416_powerlist headshots_7

Anne Marie Neatham

Chief solutions officer, Ocado Intelligent Automation

Having been at Ocado since 2002, Neatham has been closely involved with the commercialisation of its tech from the off. She is now CSO at OIA, a business focused on selling Ocado technology – including its flagship autonomous bots-on-grid system and robotic picking arms – to complex, high-volume warehouse environments in non-grocery markets.


g2416_powerlist headshots_8

Sophie Trueman

UK MD, Too Good To Go

Joining the surplus food marketplace app in 2019 as head of key accounts, Trueman was appointed Too Good To Go’s UK MD in 2022. With more than a decade of experience in fmcg, she is spearheading the app’s move beyond redistribution, like its recent launch of an AI-powered platform aimed at grocery retailers seeking to draw more margin from near-expired food and reduce food waste.


g2416_powerlist headshots_9

Ursula Lavery

Technical & RD director, Moy Park

A dedicated researcher, director and industry leader, Lavery was given an MBE in the King’s new year’s honours list for services to the agri-food industry and the economy in Northern Ireland. She joined Moy Park in 1987 as a marketing executive but moved into technical and quality management the following year, steadily building its reputation and her own as an authority on food safety and poultry research.


g2416_powerlist headshots_10

Taisiya Merkulova

Data and tech e-commerce director – Europe, PepsiCo

Describing herself as a “professional data nerd”, Merkulova joined PepsiCo in 2022 from search intelligence platform Captify. She’s also an active advocate for a more diverse tech industry and recently helped charity Pregnant Then Screwed use the power of data for its cause. “Being a role model means letting others believe they have options,” she says.


Despite the growth of the UK technology sector – from £1.2bn in 2010 to £11.3bn in 2020 – the percentage of women in tech has stagnated. So, especially in a country with a skills shortage in tech, increasing the number of women in these roles could bring improved profitability for businesses while also increasing the UK’s labour value by more than £2bn.

A good starting point is examining the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. In 2023, only 31% of those studying STEM subjects in UK higher education were women. Within this, women made up just 21% of engineering and 23% of computer science enrolments.

Emily Deer

We need to ask where this leaves women in a world that’s becoming ever more focused on the digital space. With the growth of AI and machine learning, we simply must close the gap.

One powerful action available to us is improving visibility of female leaders in this space. The women featured on this list demonstrate that women cannot just survive in the world of tech; they can thrive.

Chief digital officer, CEO, VP and MD are just some of the impressive roles these women hold. They’re leading the way in tech across the UK food & drink sector, and they’re also a beacon of inspiration for future generations looking to step into digital careers and for the female leaders of tomorrow.

Emily Deer, Director at Newton Europe