The chief of MI6, Alex Younger, yesterday called for more female technologists to come and work for him at Vauxhall Cross.
Younger told the Women in IT Awards that "as a spy" he didn't get out much, but explained that doing so to celebrate the achievements of women in cyberland was worthwhile. He added that attracting the best IT talent was a priority for him as advances in technology continued to demand new capabilities from Blighty's spooks.
"It doesn't matter what your gender is; what matters is your character, your creativity and your determination," Younger told the audience, adding a "practical consideration" for the women present: "The real-life Q is looking forward to meeting you and I'm pleased to report that the real-life Q is a woman."
After the wave of surprise from this shocking revelation died down, Younger continued: "As the head of a human intelligence organisation, but with technology right at its heart, I am delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate my support for an event which recognises the outstanding contribution by women in the IT industry, a contribution I am determined to grow and enhance in the Secret Intelligence Service to make us the best we possibly can be in utilising talent.
"The second priority I have is my ambition to make sure that we at MI6 employ the best, quite simply," Younger added. Such a task was troubled by self deselection, however. "The problem for me is that we've got to get over and see through the Bond thing," said Younger.
"There's a problem because it leads to a stereotype which is of a particular kind or a particular sort of person that will join MI6 – whether they're really posh or going to Oxford or whatever it is," the chief spook added, before claiming: "I'm none of those things by the way."
This is questionable as Younger is a privately educated former Army officer. Not that fantasies are anything new to the spooks, with maybe the greatest myth in MI6 history, regarding its "founder", being repeated by Younger:
Technology has always been at the heart of MI6. My sixteenth predecessor, Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming, who set up MI6, he was a massive gadget guy. I heard one day he chopped off his own leg after a car crash in the First World War, which sets quite a high bar. He was very handy and outside my office at Vauxhall Cross there's a big grandfather clock which he built himself with his own hands. It's a beautiful thing.
On a more serious note, however, the gender imbalance has been a sticking point for those with an interest in an equitable and efficient society. Women are still losing ground in the computer science and IT fields, despite corporate pledges to improve gender diversity in their ranks, and the pivotal role of many women from the earliest days of computer science, both in the United States and at Bletchley Park, is typically under-applauded. Maybe a female Q in the Bond films would help? ®