The Pipeline: Top Flight


“It has made a tangible difference to the two leaders that we have sent on it and we will get an ROI.”
Maria Antoniou, Senior Vice President HR/Executive HR, E-ON


Firms with women executives have been found to outperform their industries by 15% and the overall market by more than a quarter (Forbes, 2010). There is an increasing expectation on top companies to improve their pipeline of female executives. Yet research by PWC indicates that corporate UK has lost 40% of its female executives over the last decade. Many women themselves report they are unclear what is expected of them on boards, or how they can obtain these roles.

Top Flight is designed to address this gap, by introducing women to the world of executive committees and main boards. It helps them get appointed as senior executives, and once in position to have the “know how” and confidence to perform at the highest levels.


“Being part of the Pipeline this year has helped me develop my confidence, my profile and my personal effectiveness so that I can contribute my skills and insights at the top table.”
HR Director, leading UK company (participant)


Top Flight is comprehensive. It allows for the development of a personal narrative, it deepens knowledge of corporate governance, it encourages promotion of the best personal and corporate reputation and helps women understand and develop their leadership style.

Course participants are a small, carefully selected group of women who, as part of their own development and with the support of their CEOs, want to prepare for top leadership, by joining a group board (internally or externally). This course is like no other on the market. It gives individuals unrivalled access so that they learn from FTSE 100 Chairmen and CEOs and other high achievers. FTSE 100 Chairmen talk about what they look for in choosing NEDS and senior executives. Top leaders share the wisdom they’ve gained from their successes, and, crucially, their mistakes.

Guest speakers and presenters in recent months have included Sir Stewart Rose, Gail Rebuck, Sly Bailey, Gerry Grimstone, Sir Victor Blank, Jackie Hunt, Tony Rice and Robin Southall, among others (click here for a list of contributors to the programme).

The programme includes:

  • Six two-day group sessions, held bimonthly, where leading thinkers introduce important aspects of development (View examples from recent sessions: June 2014 Programme, May 2014 Programme)
  • Lunches and dinners with Chairmen, CEOs, influencers and decision-makers
  • Individual sessions with experienced senior coaches
  • A board placement
  • Networking opportunities


“The content is exceptional. We’ve heard incredibly able and successful people share their wisdom about how they’ve managed to get where they are, achieve what they’ve achieved and drive forward the changes they wanted to make happen.”
Chief Executive, UK health regulator (participant)


The programme interweaves group experiences with one-to-one coaching sessions over a 12 month period.

The programme is both intellectually stimulating and practical. And each individual is offered an appropriate non-executive position that gives her the external experience to succeed before being appointed to a FTSE. We offer a range of opportunities on the boards of family firms, subsidiary boards of major companies and not-for-profits, charities and educational institutions.


Supporting individuals

Before the course begins there is a one-to-one assessment of each individual, within her organisational context, to fully understand her requirements. Progress is reviewed over the year so that each individual finishes feeling strong and confident about the skills she has acquired and ready to make a success of the new challenge in her life.

Peer support from fellow participants is another important factor in the programme’s success. Participants report that the camaraderie within a group of high calibre businesswomen is powerful and motivating.


“I was sceptical initially about the value of being part of an all-women group, but it’s been incredibly helpful to have this group of impressive women to learn with and from.”
Executive Director, leading NGO (participant)


For this programme to deliver results all participants need to feel comfortable in taking risks, which means trust is absolutely essential. We create a supportive environment where each participant feels safe and can confidently share their hopes and fears. We believe that only when participants are able to acknowledge their vulnerabilities, real or perceived, can they accept their strengths and play to them. This is something we pride ourselves on as it is vital for achieving desired outcomes.

An MK-LF Alumni Club ensures regular follow-up meetings and continued networking after the course is completed.


Supporting organisations

At the Pipeline we know that support for individuals is alone unlikely to result in a sustainable increase in female talent reaching the highest levels in business. We take a systemic view, working with sponsoring organisations to help them understand how they can create an environment for female talent to flourish.


“This programme not only benefited me in my work place, but I have used this knowledge and learnt new skills to empower, build confidence and drive up and coming women in my organisation.”
Trading Director, major UK retailer (participant)


Not only do we review sessions with the participant and their sponsor, we are also delighted to welcome sponsors to elements of the programme to see first hand how their participant is progressing.