Our fifth NextGen Innovation Summit saw Trudie Styler, actor, producer and entrepreneur, discuss how philanthropy and entrepreneurship have shaped her life, and how the next generation has the power to reshape the world.
“The key to entrepreneurship is really all about taking responsibility for making things happen – the word itself comes from the French for that same phrase.” These words from actor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Trudie Styler marked the beginning of a fascinating final session at our fifth NextGen Innovation Summit on November 17, 2020.
Hosted by Salman Mahdi, Vice Chairman of Deutsche Bank International Private Bank, the NextGen Innovation Summit is an opportunity for our clients and members of their families to explore the intersection between entrepreneurship, innovation and the use of capital to make the world a better place.
Styler was talking with Anna Herrhausen, Executive Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and Head of Art, Culture & Sports at Deutsche Bank, in a session hosted by Jacqueline Valouch, Head of Philanthropy for Deutsche Bank Wealth Management.
Together these inspiring women gave us their reflections on entrepreneurship, positive impact, and what they have learned during their diverse careers.
The key to entrepreneurship: making things happen
To Styler, the heart of entrepreneurship is having the preparedness to take the big decisions and make things happen. It’s something that has been with her from a young age: “I passionately wanted to be an actor, which just wasn't a realistic ambition for anyone where I grew up,” said Styler. “My dad, who is a factory worker, thought it was a silly, dangerous pipe-dream and we had a heated fight one night. He said, 'Either you get yourself to the Harris Brushworks,' which was the local factory where I could work in the typing pool, ‘or you can get out of the house.’ I chose the latter.”
Only 17 at the time, Styler had an experience the very next day that would shape her career – and a lifelong interest in philanthropy.
Without a plan, she travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, the hometown of Shakespeare and a popular destination for aspiring actors. She arrived at 11pm in a vulnerable state and tearfully knocked on the front door of a house chosen at random. Thankfully, the couple who answered, Mr. and Mrs. Hawks, could not have been more generous and supportive. “They took me in, they gave me a cup of hot chocolate, they gave me a bed for the night and set me on my path,” she said. This experience, so early on in life, gave Styler a unique perspective on philanthropy that she has carried with her throughout her career.
“Long story short, I moved in with a family. I looked after their kids. The father of the family was a Shakespearean actor. I got to see the Shakespeare plays and eventually apply for them. I won a scholarship to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. And at the age of 25, I became the leading actress of the Royal Shakespeare Company's modern plays at the Donmar Warehouse.”
“I think that relationship really has shaped the things I'm involved in,” said Styler. “It really stemmed from that encounter with those two incredibly kind people who didn't say no; they only had a yes for me.”
Fighting for female representation in film and beyond
Styler’s entrepreneurial spirit and interest in philanthropy were both in evidence when she founded her pioneering production house Maven Screen Media.
Maven Screen Media focuses on helping to promote female content, creators and female-centric stories in film. How did this come about? “We [Styler and her co-founder, Celine Rattray] looked at each other and we said, ‘We're missing. We, women, are missing in film.’ On-screen and off-screen, writers, directors, gaffers, powerful and meaty roles for women over a certain age, are all missing. So we made this our mission.”
Nearly 10 years later, there have been changes in the industry but there is still a gap. “Just to give you a few statistics from last year,” said Styler, “looking at the top 100 highest grossing films, 11 were directed by women; 19 were written by women; 43 had a female lead or co-lead. And this all up against a movie-going audience that is 51% female. So, there is a gap between who is chosen to tell our stories and who consumes them.”
Anna Herrhausen offered a similar perspective from the world of business, “I think it’s important to look at representation of women in business. Especially everything that has to do with technology – both in terms of management but also who’s actually contributing to this rapid growth.” We should look to encourage people who are deliberately funding female-led start-ups, she suggested.
Why the next generation business-leaders can drive positive change
Moving on to 2020 and whether positive change is likely to slow down or accelerate from here, each of our speakers found grounds for hope.
When asked by Valouch what her takeaways from 2020 would be, Herrhausen remarked that, if this year has shown us anything, it’s that “we are able to adapt really, really quickly. We are flexible, we are creative and we can master things we didn’t really imagine before.”
2020 has also given us “a new insight and appreciation of the significance of science,” added Herrhausen. A timely reminder that “it is good to look for real facts and to discuss and debate them and base our actions upon them.”
The next generation is increasingly driving the agenda, said Styler. “I think the next generation really are taking on the challenge to make changes in the world, and that’s incredibly heartening. These are the voices that will soon be taking their place in the world of work, and I think that that’s extremely positive.”
“My grandkids will inherit an earth and society with a lot of pre-existing conditions”, finished Styler. “One thing they won’t inherit though are some of the prejudices of the older generation, deeply ingrained subconscious ideologies about social order, race, class, sexuality. And that’s a huge advantage. They’re growing up in a world of climate change marches, women’s marches, Black Lives Matter – that’s the norm.”
Valouch agreed. “I see so much of that through my own children. The exposure is phenomenal, and it will definitely create change.” She acknowledged that the next generation “has a pretty steep mountain in front of them”, but added “we know that it’s doable and the way to [overcome it] is through collaboration.”
“Explore who you are, what you want, and go for it.”
Since the 1980s, Styler has travelled the world with her work for The Rainforest Foundation, set up with her husband to support indigenous rainforest communities in the Amazon. The organisation is now active in 20 countries, and has led to Styler becoming a UNICEF ambassador, prominent humanitarian and environmentalist.
What has she taken from this experience, for anyone looking to make a difference through their own actions? “The moment you truly understand that as human beings, we are all the same,” Styler said. “It takes you a long way in life, that we all have just as much right as anyone else to have a good idea and to go and make it happen.”
“Be yourself, explore who you are, what you want and go for it.” Styler continued, “because quite frankly, we need all the help that we can get from as many folks, young, middle and old, to really get our planet going again.”
Despite the uncertain future that lies ahead, it was encouraging to hear all three speakers giving reasons for optimism – from how quickly we’ve adapted collectively in 2020 to the readiness of the next generation to mobilise on issues they care about. As Styler said, it’s all about making things happen. “Don’t wait for permission from some unseen force” Styler concluded, “because it doesn’t exist.”
Deutsche Bank Wealth Management's Next Generation programme, led by Vice Chairman Salman Mahdi, has built multi-generational relationships with clients for over 20 years. You can watch highlights from our other speakers at the 2020 NextGen Innovation Summit here.