Financial TimesFinancial Times

The secret lives of MI6’s top female spies

By Helen Warrell

08 Dec 2022 · 28 min read

Editor's Note

Do women make the best spies? The FT spent months interviewing some of MI6's top female members, who spoke on the record for the first time to challenge the perception of espionage as a man's game.

My journey to the school for spies starts in the half-light of a waking city. I do not know where I am going and have only been instructed to meet my contact at a central London landmark. We travel by car, boat and train to a place where officers of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, the overseas espionage agency known as SIS, learn their craft. I am not allowed to describe it to you, but I can tell you this: it is giant and austere and the slicing wind makes my eyes water.

At the door, I am met by a small, cheerful woman with short, wavy blonde hair whose beaming welcome is at odds with the sterile eeriness of this place. Kathy, who is in charge of all intelligence operations by SIS officers and their agents around the world, ushers me over to a bank of armchairs next to a large window overlooking a paved landscape.

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