Spy agency MI5 is the UK’s most LGBT-friendly employer

Bond fans will appreciate.
Bond fans will appreciate.
Image: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch, MGM/Columbia
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Companies and organizations everywhere are learning to take diversity more seriously. In the UK, the organization rated most welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) employees may come as a surprise: It’s MI5, the intelligence agency made internationally famous by its fictional role in the James Bond spy series.

Activist organization Stonewall examined hundreds of employers in the UK in terms of their achievements and progress on LGBT equality. The top 100 organizations, announced this week, had to show stellar performance in 10 different areas of employment practice and policy on diversity, including networking groups, community engagement, and career development.

To win the top spot, the British Secret Service beat out Lloyds Banking Group (second place) and the National Assembly of Wales (third place), as well as the 400 or so other groups that submitted themselves for consideration.

“Diversity is vital for MI5, not just because it’s right that we represent the communities we serve, but because we rely on the skills of the most talented people whoever they are, and wherever they may be,” MI5 head Andrew Parker said in a statement.

He also said he believes people “can only give the best they can give when they feel supported, valued, and treated with respect by their colleagues.”

The domestic counter-surveillance and security service was established in 1909 to fight German espionage. It has strived for years to shed its image as a macho organization—a perception perhaps encouraged by the Bond franchise—and establish itself as a diverse, modern establishment. Six years ago, MI5 ranked 134th in the same Stonewell index.

It’s come a long way since then, and its ranking this year isn’t the only evidence. According to MI5, 41% of service’s 4,000 employees are women, and more than half are under 40 years old.