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If You Want To Know What Matters To Gen Z, Just Ask Them

These three young women prove why we should be hopeful about the future: They care about social justice, know when brands are disingenuous, and rock Instagram.

If You Want To Know What Matters To Gen Z, Just Ask Them
[Photo: Flickr user Cindy Underhill]

Things I was doing at 19: working at a department store part-time and attending college classes toward my journalism major.

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Things I was not doing: amassing 159,000 followers on Instagram, creating my own streetwear line, dropping my second album, joining with the ACLU in the trans bathroom case, and walking in New York and London fashion week shows.

That’s just some of what the remarkable young women I met Monday at the School of Doodle have on their resumes.

School of Doodle is officially a “space for girl/gender nonconforming artists and activists looking to change the world.” Their motto is “DIY for world domination,” or as Molly Logan, the cofounder, put it to me: “Tell a girl that she matters and that you will pay her for her ideas.”

[Photo: Rina Raphael]

Related: How School Of Doodle Is Paving The Way For Gen Z Women


Three members of the school gave a group of professionals from the Fast Company Innovation Festival (all of us millennials and gen-Xers) an insight into exactly how they are changing the world with their creativity.

Hunter Schafer, 18, is a trans rights activist and model. She shared her coming out story and challenged our notions of public perception vs. self identification. Here’s something she’s already figured out that took me years to: “Our binary world is not sustainable. Gender is a construct, not a foundational. We are on the brink of a transformative change.”

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[Photo: Rina Raphael]
Dounia is in her early 20s and identifies herself as a “social media influencer.” She’s garnered her hundreds of thousands of followers by, as she says, “not cultivating a persona,” something that Instagram stars typically do. For her, success in fashion, social media, and music comes from being unconventional and authentic. She’s been in the pages of magazines like Teen Vogue but doesn’t view mainstream validation as crucial.

Arianna Gil is founder of the high-end streetwear line/feminist skate group Brujas (featured in Vogue, GQ Style, and the New York Times), and, like the other two women, social justice is at the core of her identity as both a consumer and a creator. She can smell disingenuousness from brands a mile away and helped a collection of professionals at our workshop troubleshoot how brands can respond to a PR crisis in ways that turn teens into advocates instead of detractors.

In short, here’s what matters to gen Z, according to Hunter, Dounia, and Arianna: authenticity, transparency, and individuality.

Want to know more? School of Doodle published their first-ever “Irregular Report” Tuesday. It’s a trend report on gen Z created completely by School of Doodle’s global community of more than 10,000 young women. As Logan calls it, “it’s Teen Vogue meets Pew–if you want to know about gen Z, just ask them.”

Yes, these three young women made me feel like it has taken me decades too long to accomplish anything noteworthy, but they also made me feel hopeful. If these three are an example of what gen Z will do, we are in good hands.

About the author

Kathleen Davis is a Senior Editor at FastCompany.com, managing the leadership and work-life section. Previously, she has worked as an editor at Entrepreneur.com, WomansDay.com and Popular Photography magazine.

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