Notable Women in Security

Women’s History Month runs from the 1st to 31st March each year since 1987. Each week Horus Security Consultancy will be exploring the work of notable women in security that have made significant contributions to the industry throughout history. From WW2 intelligence officers to the first female Director General at MI5. 

Stella Rimington

Dame Stella Rimington is a British Author and former Director General (DG) of MI5. She was the first female DG of MI5 and held the position from 1992 to 1996. She also become the first DG whose name was publicised on appointment.  

After spending two years in India accompanying her husband, she was asked to assist one of the First Secretaries at the High Commission with his office work. Upon this Rimington realised that he was the representative (in India) of the British Security Service (MI5). After gaining security clearance she worked in the MI5 office for approximately two years. In 1969 her and her husband decided to return to London, from there she decided to apply for a permanent position at MI5. 


Between 1969 and 1990, Rimington worked in all three branches of the Security Service including: counter espionage, counter subversion and counter terrorism. She then became assistant director of the Inter-departmental Group on Subversion in Public Life, to identify and limit the actions of subversives in the civil service. However, in 1992 she was promoted to one of the Service’s two Deputy Director General positions, making Rimington the first women to hold this position within MI5. 

Director General of MI5

During her time at MI5, Rimington instituted a policy of greater openness that included the beginning of an ongoing programme of releasing historical Service files to the National Archives. She was also the first DG to pose openly for cameras at the launch of a brochure outlining the organisation’s activities. Under her management as DG, she also subsequently took on the lead role in the fight against Irish republican terrorism. 

After her retirement from MI5 in 1996, she became non-executive director of Marks & Spencer and was made Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath in the New Year’s Honours list the same year (1996). 

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