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Espionage

No more James Bond? Britain’s MI6 wants mothers to become spies in latest recruitment drive

New advertisements show the changing nature of the security threat calls for a more diverse workforce with different skills

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 8:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 8:32pm

Think of a British spy and the name’s Bond. James Bond. But MI6 instead wants mothers for their emotional intelligence, not a martini-swilling, gun-toting womaniser in a tux.

The UK’s overseas secret intelligence service is on a recruitment drive aimed at women with kids and black and minority ethnic candidates. Why? Because the changing nature of the security threat calls for a more diverse workforce with different skills.

“We want, oxymoronically, people who never thought of joining MI6 – to join MI6,” the agency’s chief Alex Younger said at the launch of a new TV and online advertising campaign. “We want different points of view when making the crunchy decisions.”

The advertisement plays on the public’s imagination of what a spy should look like. Footage shows menacing sharks circling their prey before the camera pan out to reveal a mom at an aquarium able to anticipate danger. It concludes: “Secretly, we’re just like you.”

We want different points of view when making the crunchy decisions
Alex Younger, MI6 chief

MI6 officers based in Vauxhall, south London, say the agency offers flexible work patterns to suit parents, as it seeks to recruit 800 more staff by 2021. According to the latest figures available, as of March 2016 the agency employed 2,594 people. Of those, 39 per cent were women in junior positions, with 24 per cent of female staff in senior jobs. Just 8 per cent of MI6’s workforce were black and minority ethnic workers – all in junior roles.

Applicants need to have strong presentation skills, be over 21 and hold a degree. At an annual starting salary of around £36,000 (US$48,000) for an intelligence officer, Younger admits the agency isn’t the best for pay.

“Our staff are not motivated by money,” he said, adding that new hires need “to want to make a difference”.

MI6 saw applications rise following the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Salisbury, southern England in March. Security threats to the UK include from Islamist-inspired terrorism, white supremacists and dissident Irish republicans and cyber threats from hostile foreign states such as Russia.