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January 26, 2017

MI6 Chief: Spy agency needs more women in technology, not more James Bonds

The Women in IT Awards was a night of celebration, promoting collective dialogue around diversity among key industry leaders.

By Ellie Burns

CBR donned its finery last night to join a room full of accomplished women in tech celebrate those who are leading the diversity charge in the IT industry.

Gathered under the chandeliers at Grosvenor House, thousands of women from some of the world’s biggest companies came together to recognise the achievements and innovation of women in technology.

Kicking off the night of achievement, MI6 Chief Sir Alex Younger made a rare public appearance to address the crowd about diversity and the outstanding contribution made by female technologists.

The MI6 Chief took the opportunity to promote an increased focus on diversity in the agency, and revealed that the real-life equivalent of James Bond’s tech expert ‘Q’ is female.

“So, this is why I have a more practical consideration which is that if any of you would like to join us… The real-life Q is looking forward to meeting you and I’m pleased to report that the real-life Q is a woman.”

The spy agency chief was quick to dispel the notion that the agency was full of martini-drinking James Bond-types, instead saying that the Bond stereotype has no place in an agency where diversity equals better decisions.

“The more different people you have in the room, in these high-pressure circumstances in which we operate, the better the decisions. So, success for me is a deeper, broader range of technological skills in MI6 and more diversity, in particular more women.”

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“My message is a simple one: we need the best talent from the widest range of backgrounds to counter the threats facing this country and to seize the opportunities presented by modern Technology.”

Drawing upon the agency’s rich technological history with nods to Turing and the Enigma Machine, Sir Alex spoke about the technological challenges and opportunities for the agency.

“We are having to manoeuvre against this changing technological landscape and to do that we need the most brilliant technological skills, capabilities and people available to us. And if we get this stuff on our side and if we get this right we’ll go on improving. If we don’t, we won’t, and I’m determined that we succeed. So, technology lies at the heart of what we do and we are determined to stay ahead.”

Concluding his speech and making way for the main awards, Sir Alex was keen to stress women in tech - MI6 chiefhis support for “an event which recognises the outstanding contribution by women in the IT industry.”

And outstanding was certainly the right choice of words to introduce the awards, with 16 awards celebrating advocates to security champions. Sponsored by the likes of AWS, Salesforce and Rolls Royce, the 2017 winners were:


Advocate of the Year

Bernadette Andrietti, Intel
Highly commended: Vicki Cadman, BT

Business Leader of the Year

Sophie Harrison, Panaseer

Business Role Model of the Year

Wendy Tan-White, Entrepreneur First

CIO of the Year

Maggie van’t Hoff, Shell
Highly commended: Alison FitzGerald, London City Airport

Digital Leader of the Year

Beverley Bryant, NHS Digital

e-Skills Initiative of the Year

Amali de Alwis, Code First: Girls
Highly commended: Accenture

Editor’s Choice

Vladlena Benson, Kingston University

Employer of the Year

Highly commended: Thoughtworks

Entrepreneur of the Year

Brynne Herbert, Move Guides
Highly commended: Nancy Cruickshank, MyShowcase

Future CIO of the Year

Claire Priestley, City, University of London

Global Leader of the Year

Bethany Mayer, Ixia
Highly commended: Yasaman Hadjibashi, Barclays Africa Group

Innovator of the Year

Estelle Lloyd, Azoomee
Highly commended: Joanna Wake, RAW Digital Training

Rising Star of the Year

Harriet Lester, Internet Watch Foundation
Highly commended: Eleanor Harding, Twitter

Security Champion of the Year

Michele Hansom, Transport for London

Transformation of the Year

Helen Gowler, Avon

Woman of the Year

Alison Ross, Auto Trader


As headline sponsor, AWS UK&I MD Gavin Jackson spoke about how gender diversity helps businesses drive innovation and gives them a better understanding of their customers.

Jackson said, “We all have a real responsibility to ensure that the next generation of women are able to do so on ability and merit, and we’re delighted to support the Women in IT Awards’ efforts to shine a spotlight on some of the country’s most inspirational technology leaders.”

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