The rise of social media means we are now living in an era of perfectionism, where LinkedIn bios are curated to give the most flawless impression of our professional lives.

Research has shown that men and women react differently to failure, women are more likely to attribute failures to personal shortcomings or lack of ability. In our world, we tend to fixate on our failures or hide them away. But wouldn’t it be refreshing if we stripped back the carefully curated layers of our flawless personas, to reveal our vulnerabilities?

It was an idea worth exploring. So, for this year’s International Women’s Day, Wunderman Thompson women’s network RISE hosted a Four Walls event, a safe space for honest conversation and the second live event since IWD 2022. We were joined by three highly successful panellists who came together to discuss what failure had taught them.

Moderated by Account Director and RISE Co-Lead, Georgia Swanborough, our three panellists; Virginia Alvarez – Head of Insights and Effectiveness, Pip Hulbert – UK CEO, and Guy Sexty - Head of Art and Design, took to the stage on Wednesday to share their stories of redundancies, exam failures and career knockbacks. Here are the stories of some of WT’s leaders who have managed to take the hits with a mighty swoop of dignity.

Fear of failure only hinders creative bravery

If we never failed, there’d be no room for growth. It’s important not to fixate on the one thing that went wrong, but to celebrate the wins. Guy believes there needs to be the chance you won’t succeed for creativity to happen. Your best work won’t happen in your comfort zone. And often the fear of failure is bigger than the failure itself, it can hold us back and stop us growing.

“Always go a little further into the water that you feel you are capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don't feel like your feet are quite touching the bottom, you're just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

David Bowie

From frightful failures to “marvellous mistakes”

Failure can be distilled into transformative moments. For our CEO Pip, her ability to shift the narrative from frightful failures to “marvellous mistakes” has proved invaluable to her career. Failure makes us more reflective and mindful. All mistakes can be managed and provide invaluable knowledge. That’s why work culture is so important, to ensure you surround yourself with a team of people who will support you and help pick you up when you fall.

Pressure is a privilege.

Career development hinges on setbacks. There is a danger in feeling too comfortable. It’s vital for managers to create a circle of trust within your team, to communicate, be open and honest. Virginia says it’s important to learn outside of your expertise – you will be valued more putting yourself out there.


For a long time, the social sanctions of failure have often felt higher for women. But fear of failing can lead to collective fingers-in-ears acting. RISE continues to push the conversation on how we can challenge convention. How ‘failing forward’ rather than wallowing in despair can help fight the gap in gender equality to better help women reach positions of leadership.

A huge thank you to everyone that was involved in RISE this International Women’s Day.


Chief Executive Officer of Wunderman Thompson – Pip Hulpert

Head of Insight and Effectiveness at Wunderman Thompson – Virginia Alvarez

Head of Art and Design at Wunderman Thompson - Guy Sexty

RISE IWD event

Head of Growth & Marketing, UK & EMEA & RISE Founder - Helen Lee

Account Director & RISE Co-Lead - Georgia Swanborough

Senior Account Manager & RISE Co-Lead - Evie Nagy

Jenny Corner – Executive Assistant

Account Executive - Freya Pearson

Account Executive - Lara Caspersonn

Senior Copywriter – Shannon Coast

Senior Account Director – Caroline Thomas

Senior Account Manager – Kaidi Adamson

Senior Marketing Manager - Jenny Patterson

Head of Workspace - Jen Margiotta

Front of House - Pawel Chumra

Midweight Designer – Zara Veasy

Photographer – Yoshi Okubo

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