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‘Glaring lack of BAME staff’ in top posts at MI5 and MI6

The Secret Intelligence Service building in Vauxhall, London

THERE IS a ‘glaring lack of BAME staff’ at senior civil service levels in the UK intelligence agencies, a new parliamentary report has revealed.

Issues around diversity and inclusion at each of the UK’s seven intelligence and security organisations – GCHQ, MI5, Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Defence Intelligence (DI), National Security Secretariat (NSS), Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) and the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) are examined in the report by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee published today.

The report highlighted what the seven agencies are currently doing well – working together effectively, sharing resources and best practice and employing “increasingly innovative” recruitment campaigns as the seek to promote brand awareness and “attract a more diverse range of applicants from underrepresented groups”, among other things.

The authors of the report also identified areas where there is room for improvement.

“There is a glaring lack of BAME staff at senior civil service levels across the intelligence community – whilst the committee is aware that measures are being taken to address this, these will take time. Action needs to be taken now on introducing role models at a senior level.”

Among the other areas where the agencies are falling short are the collection of data, the vetting process, which was deemed to be bureaucratic, take too long and widely considered to be an inhibitor to diversity.

The report, which was chaired by MP Dominic Grieve, also stated: “At senior levels in particular, the intelligence community is still not gender balanced and does not fully reflect the ethnic make-up of modern Britain – whilst 31% of the senior civil servants in MI5 are women, that figure is considerably lower (around 25%) across the other agencies and rest of the intelligence community. In 2016–2017, just one of the organisations overseen by the committee had any staff at senior civil service level who declared as BAME.”

Out of the 4,030 staff of known ethnicity at senior civil service level, just 7% were from an ethnic minority, according to September 2017 data from the Office for National Statistics.

A new approach
In May, MI6 sought to shake off its James Bond-esque image in favour of one that demonstrated it could be a viable career choice for all types of people, from all kinds of backgrounds.

In a bid of getting this message across, the intelligence agency released its first ever TV recruitment advert. In the advert, the opening scene of a shark tank soundtracked by sombre music was followed by another with a mother and her child. It ended with the slogan: “Secretly, we’re just like you.”

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