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The conventions that have long governed American work are shifting — and Gen Z is ready to kill the

November 9, 2021

You think you know Gen Z? They're the ones who spend an inordinate amount of time on their phones, worship Y2K nostalgia, and roll their eyes at old folks, a la "OK Boomer."

Well, there's a lot more to them than TikTok. Gen Zers, a group of about 72 million people in the US born between 1997 and 2012, are the most diverse generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. (One in six adults in Gen Z consider themselves LGBT, according to Gallup.) These digital natives are, by and large, progressive, pro-government, and activist-minded. And they're coming of age in the post-#MeToo, post-George Floyd era, amid a global pandemic that's upended people's lives for 20 months and counting.

Now this just-starting-its-career generation is taking those sensibilities, experiences, and technological savvy to reinvent work and the workplace in its image. Older employees, meanwhile, are having to adapt.

"We're the first generation in America that's majority minority. We're the melting pot our country says it wants to be," said Haley Taylor Schlitz, a 19-year-old law school student at Southern Methodist University and an activist who writes extensively about Gen Z, women's rights, and racial justice.

"It will be interesting to see how we shape the workplace, not how the workplace shapes us."

When it comes to how members of Gen Z approach their professional lives, three priorities are clear, Taylor Schlitz said. One, flexibility. The COVID-19 pandemic showed that work can be done from anywhere and that working from home is better for the environment, not to mention that it can offer greater autonomy to workers, she said. Two, fairness. "Because where we came from, our origins, our history, and our educational journeys, the core moral value of my generation is equity." And finally, they want to be able to effect social change. "Gen Z is passionate about social justice, and we want our work to be aligned with our values."

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