Pay attention ladies...the real Q is a woman, says MI6 boss

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The head of MI6 has said the real-life equivalent of James Bond's Q is a woman.

Sir Alex Younger, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, has sought to dispel the stereotype of "posh" spies in a bid to boost diversity and draw in more women recruits.

Q, the inventor of Bond's gadgets, has been played by at least four men in the films, most recently by Ben Whishaw.

But the spymaster, traditionally known as C, told the Women in IT Awards on Wednesday that this was not the case as he appealed for more women to apply.

"The real-life Q is looking forward to meeting you and I'm pleased to report that the real-life Q is a woman," he said told London's Grosvenor House Hotel.

Despite acknowledging he was wearing a tuxedo, Sir Alex said that the movie portrayals of spies need to be overcome.

He said: "It leads to a stereotype which is of a particular kind or a particular sort of person that will join MI6 - whether they're really posh or going to Oxford or whatever it is. I'm none of those things by the way.

"And the issue for me is that stands in the way of something that I regard as being so important which is that we can reach into every community in Britain and make sure that we get the people that are the best, regardless of their background."