Gen Z is Tackling Gender Equity. Is Your Company Paying Attention?
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
My son has never lived in a world where the iPhone doesn’t exist—and my daughter, the iPad. For them, why type when you can tell Siri? Why Google it, when you can watch it on YouTube?
Yes, I am the mother of two Gen Z kids.
Whether it’s an app they use for homework (GoogleDocs), additional practice (DuoLingo), or leisure (Minecraft), digital connectivity and AI are the foundation of my kids’ youth. For them, like most of Gen Z, knowledge is simply a click away. It’s always been that way.
And now, as the oldest people in their generation begin entering the workforce, there’s something else unique about Gen Z we need to pay attention to: their views on gender equity.
For companies looking to prepare for the next generation of talent, these views necessitate new strategies.
Gen Z Is Shaping the Conversations Around Gender Equity—Are You Listening?
Gen Z’s views on gender equity are different from previous generations, including Millennials. In fact, their posture toward gender equity could play a more powerful role in shaping the future workforce than that of Millennials, and not only because Gen Z comprises a greater percentage of the global population than the generation ahead of them (32% vs 31.5%, respectively).
Note: Researchers use the label Gen Z to categorize individuals born between 1997 and 2012, whereas anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is considered a Millennial. Members of Gen X were born between 1965 and 1980; Boomers between 1946 and 1964.
Equity Is Normal for Gen Z. Why?
Gen Z expects equity to be the norm, not a “perk” nor a “nice to have.” For this cohort: gender equity will simply exist, the idea of the glass ceiling is archaic, and that future success depends on gender seems unreasonable.
Key insight: Gen Z is set to become the largest population on our planet, and they will not tolerate inequity of any kind.
To account for these changing generational beliefs, it’s critical to understand the demographic and cultural forces shaping them.
Attitudes Toward Gender, Race, and Ethnicity
More than half of Gen Z (57%) do not identify as straight, and 47% prefer not to define their sexuality in strict terms. They are more comfortable with the idea of identifying as non-binary (neither man nor woman) compared to previous generations.
Gen Z also wants gender-identification questions to include options besides woman or man. Nearly a third (35%) of them know someone in their peer group who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun.
To that extent, today’s teens are pushing for non-binary options on drivers licenses. Even the TSA is exploring the feasibility of gender-neutral scanners.
When these fluid attitudes toward gender intersect with the fact that nearly half (48%) of Gen Z are racial or ethnic minorities, the urgency of equity is amplified.
That’s due to the overlapping of two categorically underrepresented identities, and it helps explain why Gen Z’s stance on equity is more progressive than previous generations’.
For example, 66% of Gen Z agree with the statement that blacks are treated less fairly than whites, whereas 62% of Millenials, 53% of Gen Xers, and 49% of Boomers would agree to the same statement.
Moreover, if you asked a group of ten Gen Zers how they feel about defending causes related to identity, seven of them would say it’s “important” as it relates to race, ethnicity, LGBTQ issues, and feminism.
The value Gen Z places on gender, race, and ethnic equity dovetails into income equality more generally. Like the rest of their generation, my children have spent their entire lives in a society where the top 1% of the population holds a larger share of income than the bottom 50%.
The rising generation is waking up to the consequences of income inequality, and it does not act favorably in perceptions toward the US. While 56% of Gen Zers agree the US is among the best countries in the world, only 14% say the US is the greatest country in the world. (Compared to the 30% of Boomers who say the US is the greatest country in the world.)
Perhaps that’s why 70% of Gen Z want the government to play a greater role in solving problems on the homefront, especially as those problems relate to inequity.
Given that Gen Z children are more likely to have a breadwinner Mom than previous generations, coupled with a working mom’s 71-cents-on-a-man’s-dollar pay gap, it’s little wonder why Gen Z holds such beliefs.
Breadwinner or not, the majority of Gen Z children have moms who work outside the home. These are children and families who depend on mom’s wages for their economic well-being. The effects of inequity are woven into their lived experience.
Now as Gen Z enters the workforce, they’re making it clear: they WILL stand forward on matters of equity and they’re expecting their workplaces to stand forward, too.
How Does Gen Z Fit into the Future of Work?
Gen Z is predicted to be the most diverse and best-educated generation we’ve seen. They are 6 points ahead of Millenials in their pursuit of higher education (59% versus 53%), and non-Hispanic whites represent only a slight majority (52%) of Gen Z.
This generation of consumers, being well educated about brands and the values behind them, can identify conflicting information quickly, and they aren’t afraid to call companies on hypocrisy.
For organizations around the world, Gen Z is where the rubber meets the road. It’s no longer enough to talk about diversity and inclusion; Gen Z wants to see progress. Leaders should consider the following strategies to tap into the next generation of talent.
3 Recommendations to Tap into the Next Generation of Talent
Gen Z is starting out with more student loan debt than any generation before them. Employers that offer student loan assistance as a benefit will be more likely to land top talent.
Nearly half of Gen Z prefers not to state their sexuality in strict terms. Offering healthcare options specifically for non-binary individuals is a must.
For Gen Z, a public commitment is the first step toward diversity and inclusion. Make a pledge and then act on it. Two pledges to consider include Paradigm for Parity and the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion.
The workforce of the future will not see colleagues as male, female, young, or old. They will see colleagues as confident, aspiring, clever, and efficient. They will not build communities around shared socioeconomic statuses. They will build communities around shared causes and interests.
Gen Z is the workforce of the future, and someday, they will be our future leaders. Let’s take a stand with them and make equity for all™ a reality.
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