The U.S. and the U.K have had ongoing mandates to increase the participation of women, those with disabilities and racial minorities in spy agencies that interpret foreign communications and run human spies and assets.
A recent report suggests that although 2020 brought a very slight uptick in diversity to spy circles, there has been no real change in numerous leadership positions which are dominated by white males. Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence in the U.S. says she’s focused on increasing diversity in the 17 U.S. intelligence branches and in leadership positions. However, this has been previously promised but societal norms relating to women and minority groups are so deep rooted that significant change is impossible unless systematic projections and discrimination are acknowledged and addressed.
It is crucial that espionage workforces are as diverse as the population they serve and the foreign countries they observe. Diverse representation and equality are important values in and of themselves however, intelligence agencies also have to shape themselves toward the task of understanding complex threats from foreign and domestic adversaries. This can only be accomplished with a workforce that represents the world at large and therefore has the expertise to interpret well the array of foreign cultural factions, norms and nuances.
The shadow beliefs of western culture and its irrational psychological projections onto women and minority groups about their capabilities are at the heart of the lack of representation in its workforce and leadership. It’s a perfect example and magnification of how our integrated, autonomous and unconscious cultural beliefs affect rational decision making even at the highest levels of a country’s defence system; the industry is threatened by the lack of self-reflection and excavation of its deep rooted beliefs and so are we.