James Bond's Q is actually a woman in real life, it turns out

 
Lynsey Barber
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The real life equivalent of James Bond character Q is female (Source: Getty)

Forget the row over whether James Bond can be played by a female actor like Gillian Anderson or not - in real life, the role of Q in Britain's top secret intelligence service is already a woman.

The revelation was made by the head of MI6, Alex Younger, who also called on women to join the organisation.

“The more different people you have in the room, in these high-pressure circumstances in which we operate, the better the decisions," said Younger, in a rare speech made at the Women in IT Awards yesterday evening.

"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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Younger said he wanted to dispel the myth of those working in the intelligence service as white Oxbridge-educated men. The spy service is already recognised for its efforts on diversity, ranking at number 20 in Stonewall's list of the UK's most inclusive employers for LGBT staff.

The job of gadget expert Q was made famous in the James Bond movies, most recently played by Ben Wishaw.

But, the goings on at the top secret agency in real life would defy the imaginations of even spy writers such as Bond creator Ian Flemming, he told the 1,000-strong event.

The spy chief said that while technology has always been in the organisation's blood, it is now more prominent than ever.

"It’s always been there, but technology now is at the core of what we do in a way that it wasn’t before. And that is because the advent of the internet and big data pose for me, or for us as an intelligence service, both a golden opportunity and an existential threat: a golden opportunity to use this technology in a lawful way to identify ways of gaining intelligence, getting the information we need to keep you safe. It’s an existential threat because our opponents are using that stuff against us, using it to reveal our activities meaning that the sort of operations that I’ve been engaged in in my career as an intelligence officer are just no longer fit for purpose.

"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."

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