<< Return to the Next Generation Women Leaders Programme

How the Next Generation Programme began: The Pipeline Programme

The mission of the Pipeline Programme was to assist in the development of the UK "pipeline" of talented senior female executives, by offering highly individualised and effective mentoring relationships for high-potential women at the mid-stages of their career.

The Lord Davies of Abersoch CBE in his report, Women on Boards, acknowledged that a key inhibitor to increased representation of women at the very top of corporations, is the high level of attrition that occurs at the mid stage of women’s careers.

In Lord Davies’ words: "The reasons for this drop are complex, and relate to factors such as lack of access to flexible working arrangements, difficulties in achieving work-life balance or disillusionment at a lack of career progression."

The role-modelling, guidance and support offered by high-achieving, female Mentors uniquely positioned the Pipeline Programme as an intervention which went to some of the root causes of the problem.

The Pilot Pipeline Programme was launched by Dr Nigel Wilson, CEO, Legal & General Group plc at the Bank of England in November 2012. This Programme:

     Our Pipeline Mentors:

addressed directly the widely-recognised need for better retention and development of the female executive "pipeline" in the UK
offered Mentees and Mentors the chance to participate in a Programme which tapped into the unparalleled network, connections, 11-year track-record and expertise of the FTSE 100® Cross-Company Mentoring Executive Programme; and
built bespoke mentoring relationships which provided Mentees with a unique blend of role-modelling, guidance, advice, support and often friendship.

How the Pipeline Programme operated

The Programme implemented and supported mentoring relationships for high-potential women at the junior end of senior management in participating companies. These women were paired with senior female executive Mentors at or just below Executive Committee level.

Mentees were selected by participating companies in consultation with The Mentoring Foundation. The Foundation drew on its network of Mentees and Alumnae from the original FTSE 100® Cross-Company Mentoring Executive Programme to act as Mentors.  These women had the experience both of having built successful careers and having been mentored in the original FTSE Programme. The Mentors were successful, well-connected and influential, working at the highest level in some of the country’s largest organisations.  They offered enormous experience and great role-modelling capabilities for Mentees on the Pipeline Programme.  Mentor and Mentee profile documents produced by The Mentoring Foundation offered guidance to participating companies, where this is helpful, in identifying suitable candidates.

Support provided by The Mentoring Foundation

The Mentoring Foundation provided a highly individualised service including:

preparation workshops for Mentees, allowing them to meet and network with each other as well as offering tips and guidance on how to prepare for and build successful mentoring relationships that deliver results for them
an initial meeting with Mentors to discuss the role of Mentor in this particular Programme
a bespoke matching process where each individual Mentee was placed with an appropriate Mentor in another company.  Matching is based on one-to-one meetings with both Mentees and Mentors and on supporting written submissions from the Mentee, setting out her expectations from the Pipeline Programme
face-to-face review sessions with individual Mentees to discuss progress
facilitation of action-learning workshops for Mentees during their time with the Programme; and
systematic liaison with sponsors in participating companies.

Building the Mentoring Relationship

Each matched Mentee and Mentor got together for an initial "chemistry" meeting, after which they decided whether and how they would like to proceed.  As with the Executive Programme, we provided each mentoring pair with our Mentoring Guidelines – but these were a template rather than a straightjacket, and each pair was encouraged to agree a framework for their relationship that met their individual needs.

A guiding principle was that at least 4 meetings should take place over a 12-month period.

Mentoring relationships lasted for 12 months, with one renewal permitted.

The Pipeline Programme offered its Mentees benefits similar to those enjoyed by the Mentees on the Executive Programme. They did not lend themselves to quantitative measurement, but our experience suggested that they included the following:

Role models. Mentees interacted with some of the country’s most successful senior female executives and benefited from their experience and the model they developed for building their own success in the corporate world
Bespoke Professional Learning and Development. In the context of their own specific needs, Mentees built a development framework with their Mentor that offered them the type of insight, coaching and support they needed to help them consolidate their careers
Confidence. Research shows that women suffer disproportionately from lack of confidence.  Our experience of leading the FTSE Executive Programme over the last ten years is that the Pipeline Programme enhanced Mentees’ confidence, both by virtue of having been selected as a Mentee and through the influence of the Mentor’s coaching, advice and support
Network. Mentees had the opportunity to expand their networks through their mentoring relationships, connections with other Mentees and through the broader Mentoring Foundation network and events
Facilitated Action Learning. Through self-managed workshops, the Mentee group achieved both substantial business knowledge and skills acquisition in a confidential and safe environment of shared development.


"I am delighted that, thanks to the efforts of Peninah Thomson and many others, today sees the launch of the FTSE 100® Cross-Company Mentoring Pipeline Programme aimed at the next generation of women leaders. This new pilot Programme, with ten participants, is being launched today, drawing on the mentoring skills of alumnae from the first cross-FTSE Programme to help and support women identified as future leaders in participating organisations… I am delighted that L&G has been involved from the start of this initiative, and I look forward to hearing about the successes of the Programme going forward."

Dr Nigel Wilson, CEO, Legal & General Group plc, Annual Colloquium, Bank of England, November 2012

<< Return to the Next Generation Women Leaders Programme