MI6 head Alex Younger spoke to more than 1000 business and tech specialists at the awards ceremony for the 2017 annual women in IT awards.
Younger claimed the secret intelligence service is increasingly in need of technology specialists as tech continues to cause disruption at a rapid pace.
Using the awards as an opportunity to pitch to the mostly female crowd about the roles available in MI6, Younger claimed increasing the number of women who choose IT roles is important for the industry.
He said: “As the head of a human intelligence organisation, but with technology right at its heart, I am delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate my support for an event which recognises the outstanding contribution by women in the IT industry, a contribution I am determined to grow and enhance in the Secret Intelligence Service to make us the best we possibly can be in utilising talent.”
Technology roles often carry a negative stereotype, with many women choosing not to pursue careers in technology as a result of these pre-conceived notions of how people in technology look and act.
Younger spoke out against the James Bond stereotype that is often attached to MI6 officers and claimed this often causes the same issue within the agency whereby only a certain type of person applies for roles.
He said: “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.”
The Women in IT Awards, which is organised by Information Age, aims to showcase some of the great women in the technology industry.
The winners of the 2017 Women in IT Awards are:
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
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
presented the awards, and in a bid to demonstrate how women’s paths into an IT career are different to men’s she asked all of the women in the room who did not intend to have a career in IT to stand up.
With a majority of the room upstanding, Philbin urged: “We’ve got to do better than just falling into careers by accident.”
Phibin claimed the industry needs to do more to fill the gender and skills gaps in tech roles.