As Millennials contemplate being the first generation since the industrial revolution to have a lower standard of living than their parents, and Gen-X and late Boomers contemplate being less secure in retirement than the previous generation, the great intergenerational machine of wealth transfer that sustained increasing standards of living in western societies has slowed, and in many cases, reversed. Once almost a guarantee, the promise of getting a well-paying job and an affordable home after college seems closer to a utopian daydream than a practical five-year-plan for today’s younger generations.
This ongoing reversal of fortune challenges many of the key tenets of the market economy; homeownership and wealth generation through investment, as well as the tenets of the modern welfare state such as secure retirements and robust social programming. Each generation faces the seemingly herculean task of taking on the reins of business, government and social progress, though not many have faced the proposition of taking over a more unequal system. It’s no surprise then that Generation Z appears to be a far more active generation than Millennials and Generation X. By all accounts, the gloomy outlook posed by these trends is belied by the equally compelling data on the next generation up to the bat; Generation Z. This group accounts for one-third of the US population and makes up 40% of consumer buying power alone. With this power comes a great responsibility this generation seems uniquely well-positioned to take on. This group also rates online privacy as a far more important issue than previous generations, signaling a positive trend for the next generation of digital regulators.
An Amnesty International study of 10,000 18 to 25-year olds across 22 countries found that 41% of respondents chose climate change as their most important issue. That same study showed a lack of affordable housing and economic inequality as the next most important issues. This sensitivity to environmental and social issues indicates a stronger skepticism for institutional entrenchment and a unique appetite for change. “In this year when young people mobilized in huge numbers for the climate, it can be no surprise that many of those surveyed saw it as one of the most important issues facing the world,” remarked Kumi Naidoo, Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
As western societies grapple with the full impact of the great schism between growth and equality, there will be long-lasting impacts on future generations. This generation is already feeling that impact, and making its voice heard. Young activists and inventors alike are taking the world by storm. From Malala Yousafzai and her fight for girls education in Pakistan, to Autumn Peltier, the 14-year-old clean water activist elected Chief Water Commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation, to the front lines of the climate movement and Greta Thunberg, Gen-Z has already offered the world some of its brightest minds.
There is much to be optimistic about in a generation that appears unafraid to take on the seemingly unsolvable. Yet, many of these young problem-solvers find themselves stuck at the intersection of knowing what is wrong and being taken seriously enough to do something about it. As children growing up during the great recession, this group saw their parents working multiple jobs and starting their own businesses on the side to simply stay afloat. This observation affirms the data showing Generation Z s as a far more frugal and entrepreneurial group than previous generations. Having being born in the digital age and armed with a naturally global frame of thinking, this generation has already shown it is up to the task.
A fantastic example of this forward-looking spirit is Sophia Fairweather. At the early age of 11, Sophia has already started several successful businesses, has been a passionate advocate for #womenintech and won six major awards for her inspirational efforts as a young, digital entrepreneur including Canada 150 Women of Inspiration, ASTECH Foundation, Manning Engineering and Innovation, TECVenture, ATB Financial BoostR, and Alberta’s Leaders of Tomorrow.
I sat down with Sophia to discuss her accomplishments to date and view to a more open, equitable and prosperous future.
Well, a lot of humanity uses the internet for information, or in general uses it. So if you post something addressing a problem like climate change, as an example, you can see it globally. Or, if there’s another problem, you can see it globally and others can know about the problem. And then, in turn, others can post things to help with the problem that again you can see globally.
Older generations can help address the problems, and teach Generation Z or youth how to look after the planet or how to deal with a problem. They can also teach us how to find the right resources to do/deal, with something. In general, they can support youth in learning and doing something that they have an interest in and do not completely dismiss it.
I think it would be The ASHRAE Trade Show and Conference in Orlando I spoke at. Because it showed that what I was doing, was big enough that I was being asked to go places and speak about my journey. It wasn’t the first time I was invited to somewhere else, but it was a great event. Also, I thought I did a pretty good job!
I think that it is severely important to find someone that actually takes you seriously despite your age. Also, someone who has good enough skills that they can teach you. And, if you can’t drive, someone who can drive sure helps!
Some good resources for skills here in Canada are 4H and Business Link. And, then for advice and a little help, Startup Edmonton is good. It would wonderful to see TKS come to Alberta.
Well, I found that I was the one that searched for influential women such as Ada Lovelace and Marie Currie. I think that maybe in schools, or youth groups, or on the internet, getting Ada Marie, and other woman to be known is important. I did try myself with Wikipedia, but other resources in school would be great.
I joined The ERA Digital Foundation because I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet some pretty great people and show how industries can work with digital leaders. I want to listen to the ideas and help bring them to life. Also, ERA’s digital communities put a platform up for the industries so digital leaders can get the industries to step up a bit. I’m also excited to participate in and help judge ERA’s poster contest for young and inspiring digital leaders.
Our emerging generations, the vast majority of whom will build their lives in increasingly crowded, chaotic and competitive cities, are hungering for a clear and common sense of purpose, but can we offer them one?
From ecological exigency, to ongoing and intolerable community inequality, to a sense of rapidly eroding trust in an ever-connected world, we have reached a critical point in human history; a state of emergency that requires a profound shift towards more meaningful dialogue in order to overcome.