MI5 told to recruit more middle-aged mums

Women are more 'intuitive' says intelligence report, but Ukip MEP says women should 'stick to changing nappies'

(Image credit: 2009 Getty Images)

Britain's intelligence services should recruit more middle-aged women and mothers because they are "more emotionally intelligent and intuitive", according to a government report.

The Commons' Intelligence and Security Committee report said a lack of diversity in MI5, MI6 and GCHQ was hindering intelligence work, the BBC reports.

"Women or mothers in middle-age or mid-career have valuable life experience and may offer an untapped recruitment pool," said Labour MP Hazel Blears, who led a three-year investigation into the intelligence services.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

At the moment, just 37 per cent of those working for the intelligence services are women. Although MI5 has been headed by two women, Blears said the intelligence services as a whole still had "a very traditional male mentality and outlook".

She argues that if intelligence professionals are all "cut from the same cloth", they will all look at, and respond to threats to national security in the same way. She also advised the intelligence services to use popular parenting sites such as Mumsnet to recruit potential spies.

Former Director of GCHQ, Sir Iain Lobban, said having women in senior positions made discussions "radically different," according to the Daily Telegraph.

"I find that the discussions are deeper, I think they are more emotionally intelligent and, if you like, I think there is more intuition in the room," he said.

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright agrees. She argues that diversity should not just be pursued for legal or ethical reasons, but also because "it will result in a better response to the range of threats that threaten national security."

However, a Ukip MEP has suggested that women who aspire to be spies should stick to changing nappies. Janice Atkinson argued that the role simply does not come naturally to women.

Talking to Politics.co.uk, she said: "What do we want from our security services – James Bond or Mary Poppins? James Bond has yet to be recorded changing a nappy at 3am on a work night."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.