International Women’s Day!

News – 8 March 2022

Today is International Women’s Day – a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and calling for gender equality. So, what better time to celebrate women working at Grand Union? We recently spoke to women working in male-dominated sectors and those flying the leadership flag at Grand Union. Take a look at what they had to say, below.

Sue Rice, Programme Delivery & IT Business Transformation Manager

Sue is one of eight women working in Grand Union’s 24-person strong IT team. This is much higher than average representation across the sector, where the number of women working in IT is slowly increasing, but is still well under-represented.

“I’ve worked in IT all my life. I did a Computer Science degree when the subject was in its infancy – they weren’t offered at universities, so I went to Hatfield Polytechnic which was outstanding in its field. There were 10 women out of an intake of 120, which dropped to seven after the first year. When I graduated, I worked for software houses designing and developing systems as diverse as monitoring the trade in endangered systems under the CITES convention, to a scheduling system for British Airways cabin crew and pilots. I loved not only the technical challenge but the necessity to get under the skin of so many different businesses.

“In the early days some clients questioned whether I would have the ability to understand their business requirements because I was a woman; in initial meetings it was sometimes assumed I was a secretary, not the main consultant; I constantly had to prove that I was better than my male colleagues. Sometimes, clients would engage in sexist banter with me about their colleagues, then apologise because they’d ‘forgotten I was a woman’.

“Even now I dread being asked by a stranger what I do for a living, it is almost guaranteed to make social chats awkward because people view it as weird – both men and women. It’s sometimes followed up with “Can you fix my pc/laptop?”, the answer is usually no, that’s not what I do.

“There is such a wide spectrum of jobs in IT out there; it’s likely that there’s a role that will appeal to most. I would advise women to ignore stereotypes, be curious and have the confidence to explore the opportunities that are available.

“I’ve always believed in equal opportunities; a few years ago, I became a STEM Ambassador and talked to school children and students about the various opportunities out there. I’ve also given talks about women who have inspired me as part of Ada Lovelace Day at a girl’s school. I give presentations at Conferences partly because I think it helps normalise women holding influential and technical roles within IT.”


Wottou Tea, Trainee Electrician

Tea is a trainee electrician, part of our internal repairs team (IRT). She is one of the few women on this team, which is typically a male-dominated industry to work in.

Tea, who has been at Grand Union since July 2020, is keen to encourage more women to work in trades. She said: “Being one of the few women in the IRT is nothing new to me. Even during my training at Bedford and Milton Keynes College, I was always the only woman in my class. I remember looking up to a woman who was in a level above me, she was a great inspiration and I hope to inspire others like she did to me.

“I’ve had people remark at their surprise when I turn up at their doors and they see a woman. But it’s only in their eyes that they see it as a ‘man’s job’, to me, it’s not something I notice.”

Tea was born in Africa, and for the most part of her life, was raised and worked in Paris, France before moving to the UK a decade ago. “Since the earliest days of my childhood, I have always dreamed of doing jobs typically occupied by men.

“In Paris, I worked as a delivery driver and the fact I was a woman was often commented on. I developed a thick skin over the years and, aside from my gender, I also faced racism. But nothing was going to stop me from being myself and doing what was right for me.

“People often have their opinion on what women should do, but we shouldn’t be afraid to defy that. All women who want to work in male-dominated sector can do it, be passionate and give yourself the time, I encourage women with similar passions not to let their gender hold them back. If, like me, you are keen to work in the multi-skilled or electrical trade, grasp opportunities with both hands, you will not be disappointed.

“Being an electrician was one of my bigger dreams so I gave myself the means and Grand Union opened its doors to me. It’s a great place to work, I feel accepted and am part of a very competent team, I always learn from my colleagues and my supervisors who are always there for me. I hope to inspire other women to join me, working in this sector.”

Mona Shah, Executive Director of Finance & Business Services

It’s brilliant to have female representation in leadership at Grand Union. Here’s what Mona had to say, about her journey into leadership.

“I have always worked hard, kept my integrity, stayed calm, been fair and had a positive attitude in dealing with all the challenges life has thrown my way whether professionally or personally. One of the most rewarding comments I have been fortunate to receive from people, is that I am inspirational, which is not how I have seen myself.”

Aileen Evans, Group Chief Executive

And finally, some words from Aileen Evans – our very own everyday inspiration for women seeking to enter leadership positions.

“Leadership is what we say and what we do – it’s not merely a position. Believing that and learning how to lead while we’re leading is something I wish someone had told me years ago. I think it’s really important for women to have the confidence to go for it. I spent too long trying to fit into what I thought a leader was rather than being myself. Discovering who I am, what I stand for and what’s important to me has shaped my leadership style. Find out who you are, what makes you tick and do more of it.”