August 4, 2020

Gen Z isn’t waiting to change the world—they’re ready now.

Girls With Impact founder interviews four young women on what motivates them to create the change they want to see in the world.

Girls With Impact founder Jennifer Openshaw talks to four Gen Z women, ages 15-18, on their ventures, their outlook, and why this generation is the generation of action. Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Greta Thunberg has been leading the international climate change conversation since she was 15—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 percent of Gen Z said that being political/socially active was integral to their identity.

In my kick-off show—The GenZ Project with Jennifer Openshaw on LinkedIn Live—I chatted with four Gen Z 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.

[Read more: Gen Z is growing up and ready to take on the world]

I wanted to find out what drives this passion and how can we channel it.

What is Fueling This Need for Change?

Gen Z was born between 1995 and 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, Gen Z is so ready for this change, they’re pursuing it before they have even graduated high school.

How is Gen Z 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 Gen Z taking matters into their own hands, to pursue change through their own means. As Girls With Impact’s own report on Gen Z finds, 60 percent 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 percent of Gen Z plan on becoming entrepreneurs: they recognize the power of business and how that can be leveraged to fall in line with social and political goals.

In fact, as Jody Bell, 18, points out, “Entrepreneurship is activism in disguise.”

As parents and educators, how do we support Gen Z?

Forget learning how to regurgitate information, 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,” she says.

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.

What’s Next?

For the past five months, Gen Z, 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 Gen Z 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.

Girls With Impact

Jennifer Openshaw

Girls With Impact

Jennifer Openshaw is nationally known financial expert and CEO of the nonprofit Girls With Impact, a modern business and innovation academy for NextGen women leaders, ages 12-18. She's appeared on Oprah and CNBC's Power Lunch and is a LinkedIn Influencer.
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