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Recruit more women, report tells UK Intelligence Services

Fri, 6 Mar 2015
The UK Intelligence Services should look beyond graduates to fill their ranks and aim to recruit women in specific groups, including non-graduates, trainees, mothers and those in middle age and mid-career, a new report has urged.

Published yesterday by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, ‘Women in the UK Intelligence Community’ makes six recommendations to the agencies from its key findings to focus on over the next 12 months to increase the percentage of women within the ranks of the three intelligence and security agencies.

Currently, 37% of the workforces of the agencies – the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and MI5 – are women. In contrast, 53% of the Civil Service are women.

The agencies are also failing to promote women in significant levels. Within the agencies, 19% of senior civil servants are women, compared to 38% in the Civil Service.

Of new entrants to the Civil Service, 50% are women, compared with 38% of new entrants to the intelligence agencies.

The report’s most significant recommendation is the emphasis on targeting specific groups of women to recruit, and the suggestion that the Agencies should use “a broad range of mediums” through which to advertise, such as parenting network Mumsnet.

“Many middle-aged women will have life experience but not necessarily the standard qualifications: which is more important?” the report says.

The reference to Mumsnet has gone down well with the site’s users.

Asked by Recruiter for comment on the reference to Mumsnet in the report, Justine Roberts, Mumsnet chief executive said: “Along with numerous tongue-in-cheek responses about how the almost literal invisibility that women acquire once they reach middle age would make them perfect candidates for role of a spy, Mumsnet users have broadly welcomed the idea that the security services are open to a more modern recruitment policy.

“The world’s come a long way since the Cold War and greater diversity undoubtedly gives organisations a resilience that can’t be bought on Saville Row.”

Another key recommendation from the report is, “Don’t limit women to certain jobs”. The report notes that some women within the agencies felt that they could not return to operational roles after taking a career break such as maternity leave, and instead were being guided toward more corporate roles in finance or human resources.

“It is such a sad waste of talent to sideline women who have successfully been filling operational roles… They have first-class skills that the Agencies have helped them to build, so use them,” the report says.

In a statement accompanying the report, Labour Hazel Blears MP, a former counter-terrorism minister, said: “I hope that this report will galvanise the support for, and lead to further concerted efforts to create, a more gender diverse workforce in the agencies.”

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