By: Jennifer Openshaw
Greta Thunberg has been leading the international climate change conversation since she was 15 – and now she’s the youngest Time’s Person of The Year we’ve ever seen.
Malala Yousafzai was 11 when she began writing about educational equity for the BBC — now she’s a published author, and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history.
These individuals aren’t anomalies. In a recent Irregular-Labs study, 73% of GenZ said that being political/socially active was integral to their identity.
In her kick-off show – The GenZ Project with Jennifer Openshaw on LinkedIn Live – Openshaw chatted with four GenZ women and discovered that they had a lot to say about who they are and what matters most to them: change and playing a personal role in innovation.
In fact, it’s time we recognize that this generation is going to change the way our society functions: They are the storm that is going to radically progress our socio-economic playing field.
What drives this passion, and how do we channel it?
What is Fueling This Need for Change?
GenZ was born between 1995 – 2015 and is just now entering the workforce. Any way you slice it, their childhood has been consumed by turmoil.
Girls With Impact graduate Kristen St. Louis, 17, points out that, “I’ve never seen a world without 9/11. I’ve never seen a world without global warming. It’s not that we’re so used to those things, it’s the complete opposite; we are so aware that we’ve had to live with this our entire lives that we’re desperate for a change.”
Indeed, GenZ is so ready for this change, they’re pursuing it before they have even graduated high school.
How is GenZ Pursuing Change amid Covid and #BLM?
The answer: Social Entrepreneurship; self-directed impact.
This sense of turmoil — mixed with perceived inaction of current leaders — has left GenZ taking matters into their own hands — pursuing change through their own means. As Girls With Impact’s own report on GenZ finds, 60% want to create something world-changing.
Social entrepreneurship gives these young people a method of maximizing their impact in a way that is self-directed and can also bring in an income. It’s no surprise that 41% of Genz plan on becoming entrepreneurs: they recognize the power of business, and how that can be leveraged to also fall in line with social/political goals.
In fact, as Jody Bell, 18, points out, “Entrepreneurship is activism in disguise.”
As Parents and Educators, How Do We Support GenZ?
Forget learning how to regurgitate, as Raina Jain, 16, says. This generation is looking for learning outside the traditional system.
Raina, a high school student and professional public speaking coach, expresses this sense of “traditional school” consisting of almost algebraic learning outcomes: “xyz do this and do that and here’s the outcome.”
“It’s a system that needs to change,” says Raina.
One way parents can do this: supplement this education with the empowerment of entrepreneurship and business courses — allowing students the opportunity to take action. We must encourage them to be change-makers because time and time again, they are proving themselves capable.
For the past 5 months, GenZ, an activist generation as it is, has realized that racism is alive and well, that our healthcare system is simply failing, and that climate change won’t stop even if we’re on lockdown.
Coming out of this period, with a large portion of GenZ entering higher education and the professional world, it would be an understatement to call this moment in time important.
As St. Louis states, “it’s an oncoming storm.”
So, to parents, educators, and active fans of this generation: get ready because they are just getting started.