Forget James Bond and Jason Bourne – women make “bloody good spies”, a female intelligence officer has claimed.
In an interview with The Times, Lisa (not her real name) said that women’s ability to understand emotions and multi-task makes them adept undercover agents.
Being a mother is also an advantage because it allows women to connect with a wide variety of people, from terrorists to political leaders.
“I am less of a threat than a single female,” Lisa, who is married with young children, told the newspaper.
“They [the terrorists] have mothers, sisters, daughters.”
Lisa spoke to The Times about her job as part of a subtle but active recruitment campaign that is taking place in the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), better known as MI6.
She said: “It is awesome, completely unique. I have successfully countered proliferations, I have made the world a safer place through some of the operations I have done and the agents I have run.
“It is always interesting. There is massive diversity. You can be covering completely different geographical areas during a career. There is a string moral reward to it.”
But she emphasised that working for MI6 is a far cry from the glamorous one-man action depicted in the likes of the 007 and Bourne franchises.
Instead, she said intelligence officers work as a team and use their creativity to solve problems and extract the information required by different parts of Whitehall.
“SIS is a lot more responsible and it is a lot more connected to the rest of the government. It is a lot more about teamwork, and not just ‘Bond talks to Q and gets kit’,” she said.
Lisa described the qualities required in a spy as an interest in foreign affairs – speaking a foreign language is a strong plus – and a sense of entrepreneurship when it comes to problem solving.
“The beauty of the work is finding the slickest route… to get from A to B without getting caught,” she said.
Being a team player is also a must and, perhaps surprisingly, marriage and motherhood are no less compatible with a career as a spy than with a more mainstream job.
“It is amazing that anybody manages to balance life and work with small children,” she said.
Lisa criticised the portrayal of female spies in the media, particularly the part of Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) in Homeland, who is depicted as suffering with a personality disorder.
“I think they [women] are bloody good spies,” Lisa said.
“We are quite good at multi-tasking. We are quite good at tapping into different emotional resources. You can get into a lot of places. But all of those skills are shared by many of my male colleagues.”