MI6 job ‘more exciting than James Bond’ and not only for white men, spy says

MI6 is launching a recruitment drive to hire more spies from black and Asian backgrounds.

Samuel Montgomery
Monday 04 March 2024 06:44 GMT
MI6 headquarters in London (PA)
MI6 headquarters in London (PA) (PA Archive)

Working for MI6 can be more exciting than a James Bond film and not everyone who works there is “a white, middle-class male” who likes women and drives an Aston Martin, the first black spy to give a live broadcast interview said.

The MI6 director, referred to only as Kwame, spoke on BBC Radio 1Xtra on Sunday as part of a wider campaign to hire more spies from black and Asian backgrounds.

Speaking from the MI6 building, also known as The SIS Building, in London, Kwame said: “It’s more exciting than James Bond. But the issue is if you talk about James Bond it gives you a different connotation.

I’ve seen some of the coolest stuff. Things that will blow your mind.

Kwame

“I’m afraid it makes you think that everyone who works here is a white, middle-class male, who is driving an Aston Martin, who likes women and all that. But that’s not true.

“You can see that’s not necessarily true about me. And that’s what we want to do with this. We want to reach out to all the brothers and sisters out there and say actually SIS, MI6, it’s a place for you.”

Kwame, who described himself as the director of organisational development or effectively the finance and HR director, told presenter Richie Brave:  “I’ve seen some of the coolest stuff. Things that will blow your mind.

“You have to be in it to see it. Some of the stuff I have seen is way more than what you see in the spy movies.”

Ultimately, our mission is about protecting the UK, protecting the people of the UK by picking up information and doing things overseas.

Kwame

Referring to Q, the MI6 gadget master in the fictional James Bond world first created by author Ian Fleming, Kwame added: “Q here is a woman actually, and her deputy is a woman. We’ve got a whole line of Qs doing really cool stuff in the tech space who are women.”

Pressed on the less savoury misconceptions around MI6, Kwame said: “We don’t torture people. Absolutely not. The UK is firmly against that.”

In promoting MI6 as a career path, Kwame said: “You get really good pay, really good pension, really good reward. But, actually, it is the impact that makes a difference for me.

“Ultimately, our mission is about protecting the UK, protecting the people of the UK by picking up information and doing things overseas.”

Less than one in 10 MI6 staff (9%) are from an ethnic minority background and their median pay is 13.2% lower than white employees, according to the intelligence service’s most recent ethnicity pay gap report.

On the diversity recruitment drive, Kwame said: “We want the brilliant men, women, non-binary friends and brothers and sisters and non-binary family members from within the black and brown community to come and join us because there is real talent there.”

Kwame said he had told his wife and sister where he worked but had not told his young children.

MI6 intelligence officers work under the condition of anonymity, apart from the head of MI6, Sir Richard Moore, whose name is put into the public domain.

Nadia, an MI6 employee from a minority ethnic background who works in communications, said: “To be able to go out into the world and do what an SIS officer does, people in the community are literally born with these skills. These are like natural skills to us. We just have it.”

Another MI6 director, called Jay, who is from an Indian background, is scheduled to give an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday.

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