If you find yourself feeling pessimistic about the future, don’t fret, you can count on Gen Z women to make waves and get stuff done. Over the past few decades, we have seen a number of women making an impact in their respective industries at very young ages — the Williams sisters, Dakota Fanning, and Malala Yousafzai to name a few. These women may not have served as exact blueprints for today’s youth, but they have made it easier to imagine success at such a high caliber. Now, Gen Zers are taking ownership of their voices and forcing older generations to hand over the reins.
As digital natives, Gen Zers have learned to adapt quickly to changing online environments. Mobilizing peers for a protest is just as commonplace as learning the latest TikTok dance, or selling clothes on Instagram(#client). They are unwilling to buy into the false narrative perpetuated by #boomers that everyone under the age of 23 is overly sensitive, entitled, or ill-equipped to participate meaningfully in “serious” conversations.
In order to connect with Gen Z, it is important for marketers to separate bias from truth. According to a 2018 report from McKinsey & Company, Gen Z is “more pragmatic and analytical about their decisions than members of previous generations.” Their loyalty to a brand is contingent on shared values, transparency, and authenticity. If brands want to save themselves the embarrassment of being dragged on Twitter, they should keep their promises (commitment to diversity, sustainability, ethical labor practices, etc.), trust the young voices within their companies and let folks run with their own stories.
One example Gen Z women putting their support behind brands that align with their values is the rising popularity of Aerie with this generation. Aerie saw a surge in sales when they decided to stop photoshopping models with their #AerieReal campaign, a move that has now been replicated by other female-focused apparel and beauty brands.
Here are a few Gen Z women who I look to for inspiration and who should be on your radar. These young women are using their platforms to shift culture and policy while keeping their passions and integrity at the forefront of their work.
Known for portraying the quick-witted Diane on ABC’s Black-ish, Marsai Martin has positioned herself as a force in young Hollywood. Last year, at just 14, Marsai became the youngest executive producer in history and now has her own production company, Genius Productions. Early this year, Genius partnered with the nonprofit Color of Change to host a writer’s brunch to promote the
In her breakout role in HBO’s Euphoria, transgender actress Hunter Schafer tackles issues of depression, gaslighting, the sometimes dangerous nature of relationships in the digital age. Before beginning her acting career, Schafer worked as a model in New York and served as a plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union’s 2016 lawsuit against North Carolina House Bill 2 that required people to use the restroom for the gender they were assigned at birth.
After moving to the United States from Mexico because of the floods ravaging her hometown, Xiye Bastida vowed to serve as a voice for young people and indigenous folks in the climate movement. To date, Xiye has spoken at the United Nations, helped to organize Global Climate Strikes, and been featured in Teen Vogue and Define American’s mini-documentary “We Rise.”
13-year-old Naomi Wadler first made headlines in 2018 for her poignant speech at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. She was only 11 at the time, but articulated the lack of care and concern granted to Black women who are victims of gun violence. Earlier this year, Naomi went viral again for speaking about the disparities in media representation for Black and brown activists at the World Economic Forum.
Following in the footsteps of Althea Gibson and Venus and Serena Williams, Coco Gauff is a part of a new vanguard of young, Black women dominating the tennis courts. In 2019, Gauff became the youngest player to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon since 1991 and bested her idol, Venus Williams.
Lauded as one of the NCAA’s top basketball players, Sabrina Ionescu shocked the basketball community when she announced her plans to play through her senior year rather than enter the WNBA draft last year. In February of this year, she became the first player in the history of college basketball with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Now, she is focused on leading the Oregon Ducks to their first national title.
A TEDx Talk, events for the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Space Center are just a few of the speaking engagements Kavya Kopparapu has participated in by age 19. She is the Founder & CEO of Girls Computing League, a nonprofit established to help close the gender gap in computer science, and a student at Harvard University.