This year, although we won’t be able to host panel discussions and live events, as we have done in previous years, MI5 is still marking International Women’s Day with a series of digital events, talks and blogs for our staff during the first two weeks of March, led by our gender network.
International Women’s Day is a global day of celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. As an organisation we’ve been reflecting on this year’s theme ‘Choose to Challenge’. Our staff have been exploring how gender has impacted their careers, and discussing what challenge means to them – listening to the experiences of colleagues, challenging ourselves on our own behaviours and biases, and ensuring that we’re all equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to embody a diverse and inclusive workplace.
In his first speech as Director General in October 2020, Ken McCallum reflected on the importance of MI5 having a truly diverse workforce:
“In the end, MI5’s real strength lies in its diverse, talented people, and their ability to be brilliantly adaptive. I get that it can be a cliché to talk about diversity, but MI5 is an organisation that has to really mean it… for those of us already here, it means a culture of career-long learning, from top to bottom of MI5. And it means all of us creating an inclusive culture we enjoy working in, giving our best and able to be our full selves, high on commitment, low on ego."
Despite making good progress, we know we still have further to go to achieve true gender equality. Our gender pay gap report, which we published in December 2020, showed a 13% gap in mean pay between men and women, though it also showed that women now account for 38% of senior staff, and we expect to meet our 2021 target of 45%. We remain committed to making sure that MI5 has a truly equal workforce and are proud to be the only UK intelligence agency to have been headed, on two occasions, by women.