After decades of paranoia about homosexuals in its ranks, MI5 has for the first time made it into the top 10 of the UK’s most gay-friendly employers.
The domestic intelligence agency was ranked seventh in the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall’s 2015 list of top 100 employers – up from 25th place last year.
MI5’s success came alongside improvements in all three branches of Britain’s Armed Forces. For the first time the Army, Navy and RAF all made it into the top 100 of lesbian, gay and bisexual-friendly employers.
The milestone comes on the 15th anniversary of the lifting of the ban on gay people being allowed to join the military.
Stonewall spokesman Richard Lane said: “It represents incredibly significant progress in a very short time. I wouldn’t say I am entirely surprised by it though, because the Armed Forces have been working very hard to change the culture of their organisations. They have realised the importance of recruiting the best people for the job, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
About 400 organisations, employing over 13 million people, applied to get on Stonewall’s list. The success of the Army, which was placed 46th, the Navy, which came 56th and the RAF, in 91st position, was hailed by the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who said: “I’m tremendously proud of this ringing endorsement. Our Armed Forces have worked tirelessly over the past 15 years to become more inclusive employers.” MI5’s ranking, beating the likes of Brighton Council and the Co-op, suggests a huge change from the Cold War era when gay “spooks” were considered a blackmail risk, with paranoia stoked by the spies Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, who happened to be homosexual as well as communist.
MI5’s ban on gay people endured until the early Nineties, but in 2008 it hired Stonewall to help it attract lesbian and gay recruits.
Andrew Parker, the Director General of MI5, said: “Keeping the country safe requires the best efforts of the richest mix of the most talented people. It is essential that MI5 is an inclusive workplace.”
Mr Lane also suggested that gay people had the potential to make excellent secret service agents. He said: “Most people don’t decide they are gay on Tuesday and come out on Wednesday, which means – unfortunately – that many gay people have experience of hiding their true personality and not talking about it, which might fit some of MI5’s requirements.”
Source: The Independent.