London: IN 007’s day, of course, all that was needed were nerves of steel and the ability to look suave in a dinner jacket. But British intelligence agencies now want to recruit more middle-aged mothers and are relaxing their requirements for a university degree in favour of “emotional intelligence”.
MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have all used Mumsnet to find new female spies, nicknamed Jane Bonds, while some agencies are targeting older women working in social care who may be bored with their careers. It marks the first time the intelligence agencies have admitted to using female-friendly websites to recruit more women.
Local newspapers are also being targeted by spy agencies to get a better balance of staff from both genders. A new report on plans to rebalance the intelligence workforce states that the security services are looking for women with “high emotional intelligence, rather than focusing on standard qualifications” and are keen to demonstrate the family-friendly nature of working as a spy.
Flexible working and allowing women with new babies to bring their children to so-called keep-in-touch days in the office are part of plans to boost the number of female spies. MI5 has set itself a target of a 45 per cent female workforce by 2021, the report found, while GCHQ has changed maths recruitment criteria for some posts, and has seen applicants by female staff increase by 40 per cent. A recommendation sent to intelligence bosses in 2015 states: “The agencies should explore groups other than graduates. Women or mothers in middle-age or mid-career, who may have taken some years out to bring up children, may offer an untapped recruitment pool.”
As a result, both GCHQ and MI5 have now dropped the requirement for a 2:1 degree from their key recruitment schemes, preferring life experience.
Recruiters are also being given “unconscious bias training” to prevent them from sidelining older women or those who may be considering children to stop women ending up in human resources or administrative jobs.
Gisela Stuart MP, a member of the intelligence and security committee, said the report is welcome. She said: “Half the [world’s] population are women so this is a recognition that the intelligence services must respond to the population within which they operate.”
The report follows speculation that Gillian Anderson, the actress famous for her role as Scully in the X-Files, could be the next James Bond. Fans mocked up a picture of the actress posing as 007 amid calls for a women in the leading role after Daniel Craig revealed he will not continue.