By Danny Villanueva, Group Director
For the last several weeks, Provoke Weekly has devoted some due perspective to the movements of inclusion, empowerment and representation for women in leadership in the world of business and marketing. As I’m a father of two young women, the editors of PW thought that I may have a unique perspective, particularly one that I could share through the filter of my daughters’ eyes. So while Miranda, my oldest at 20, is home from university on spring break, and Sara, a 16-year-old sophomore in high school, is just home because I asked nicely, I sat with them to talk. And while this was in no way scientific, it did illuminate for me a shared generational mindset.
We talked #MeToo, about empowerment and representation of women today. Miranda discussed the impact of seeing the first Women’s March, after the 2016 U.S. election, and the sense of inspiration it gave her. “Seeing women, like me, all over the world, standing up to be heard, to be represented, meant everything to me. I knew then that I wasn’t alone, that this was something big that will make things right
for the generations to come.” For Sara, four years younger, the movements and banded unity were great, though she felt there was no doubt there would be change because, as she went on to explain, her generation, her kind, would have made sure of it. And that’s where the conversation changed.
The recent cover of Time Magazine featuring Parkland, Florida high school students with the caption“Enough,” Miranda explained, underscores this underestimated potential of Generation Z, the population after the Millennials born from 1997-2016. And while Millennials are arguably the most researched generation in history, society needs to be prepared for the approaching tsunami. Why? Because in many ways, Gen Zers are the opposite or extreme versions of Millennials.
According to Nielsen, in terms of size, more than a quarter of America’s population belongs to Gen Z, and the segment is growing with each birth. More notable than their “current” spending power (take note that a fraction are just now old enough and getting into the workplace), which according to Mintel is around $44 billion a year, is a mature mindset intent on changing the world. This group is taking on issues adults wouldn’t or couldn’t. And unlike Millennials, who have been described as self-absorbed idealists, Gen Z are characterized more as self-assured realists who get things done because they have to. They’ve learned that if they need something, they have to take ownership to make it happen.
According to Sparks and Honey’s Gen Z 2025 culture forecast, social listening reveals that Gen Z are determined to “make a difference” and “make an impact.” Social entrepreneurship is one of the most popular career choices. 26% of 16-19 year-olds are currently volunteering. While Mark Zuckerberg and his creation of Facebook are iconic for Millennials, DIY education advocate Logan Laplante and his 2013 TedTalk “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy” – which received well over 5 million views – is symbolic for Gen Z. If you want to reach them, your message needs to be relevant and packaged accordingly. They won’t just expect it, they’ll demand it.
Gen Z believes in the idea of “me is we.” Their social passions are focused on issues that both reflect more traditional values and care for the greater good. Looking at the top social advocacy and issues of Gen Z, Above the Influence is the association they have the most affinity for, followed by the truth campaign. Both are organizations that help young people stay on the right path, free of drugs and alcohol. It’s as much a reflection of their life stage as it is of their values, skewed toward the conservative. Showing concern for others is another revered social force. The Keep A Breast Foundation, a breast cancer care and research organization, is in the top three for this age group.
“We live in the moment, with an eye toward the future.”
Problems of inclusion and representation, as both of my daughters explained, are issues that existing generations are dealing with now, today, but by contributing and getting involved themselves, they will see to it that things like #metoo and others are cemented firmly in the past, so that they can take on other issues important to them like man’s impact on the planet (76%), world hunger (78%) and childhood disease (77%).
If my kids were Millennials, I might be concerned – for their mental state and their future prospects. But mine are strong, mature and beautiful Gen Zers. As I’ve heard Miranda say many times over, “Dad, I’ve got this.”