Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stella Rimington

Stella Rimington joined Britain’s Security Service (MI5) in 1969. During her nearly thirty-year career she worked in all the main fields of the Service’s responsibilities—counter subversion, counter espionage and counter terrorism—and successively became Director of all three branches. Appointed Director General of MI5 in 1992, she was the first woman to hold the post and the first Director General whose name was publicly announced on appointment. Following her retirement from MI5 in 1996, she became a nonexecutive director of Marks & Spencer and published her autobiography, Open Secret, in the United Kingdom. Her novels include At Risk, Secret Asset, Illegal Action, and Dead Line.

From her Q & A with Jordan Foster at Publishers Weekly:

How is the MI5 that Liz Carlyle joins different from the agency you joined in the late 1960s, particularly for women?

When I joined, women were really restricted in what they were allowed to do. It was really a two-tier career system. It was a different era altogether. Women were restricted to dealing with the clerical end, the papers, sorting out the files, doing a bit of intelligence assessment or analysis if we were thought to be quite bright. But the "sharp end" intelligence work—dealing with the sources and doing the sharp end of the investigation—was completely off the map for women in those days. As the '70s came along, with women's liberation and sexual discrimination reform, etc., we women who had degrees and were well educated were actually very similar to the young men that they had started to recruit. Gradually things began to change and we were allowed, rather tentatively at first, to move into more of the sharp end work.

How is Liz's career path similar to yours?

It's broadly similar. Again, you have to cast your mind back to another era. When I joined, it was the height of the cold war. The majority of the service's work was counterespionage, countering the efforts of the Soviet Union and its allies to spy and subvert Western democracies by spreading world communism. But then countering terrorism...[read on]
Read about the fictional character that Stella Rimington thinks most resembles her.

--Marshal Zeringue