Exploring Gen Z women’s new perspectives on life, career, injustice, social media and brands

by | Jan 15, 2021 | Covid-19, Public Relations

Perhaps more than any other group, the ongoing COVID crisis has had a profound impact on the lives of the women of Generation Z—on their priorities for the future and their views on careers, relationships, racial injustice, social media and brands. New research from Meredith Corporation‘s Data Studio and The Harris Poll takes a deep dive into their outlooks and attitudes—revealing eye-opening insights for brands and communicators.

Although Gen Z women believe their lives have been put on hold by COVID-19 (32 percent), today’s 16- to 23-year-old women are more likely than other generations to be excited to build their lives in the new normal after COVID-19. Three-quarters (77 percent) of Gen Z women say that COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on their world view, and 70 percent believe that it has shone a spotlight on racial injustice in this country.

Exploring Gen Z women’s new perspectives on life, career, injustice, social media and brands

America’s most multicultural generation has faced the highest levels of discrimination, with six in 10 Gen Z women saying they have been discriminated against because of their race. More than eight in 10 (82 percent) of Gen Z women say, “Racial equality is more important to our country now than ever before.”

When it comes to their relationships with brands, over three in four (76 percent) say, “I would like to see more women of color embraced in companies’ services and products, not just their marketing.” Almost eight in 10 (78 percent) have “broken up” with a brand for some reason, including the brand’s price, racial discrimination and labor practices, and half of Gen Z women have called out a brand that behaved in a way that they believed was unethical.

Exploring Gen Z women’s new perspectives on life, career, injustice, social media and brands

Percentage of Gen Z women who have “broken up” with a brand, or stopped using it for the following reasons: 

  • Price of brand/product: 37 percent
  • Racial discrimination: 27 percent
  • Decline in quality of products: 21 percent
  • Labor practices: 20 percent
  • Sustainability practices: 16 percent

Exploring Gen Z women’s new perspectives on life, career, injustice, social media and brands

Looking at their hopes for the year ahead, the top 2021 personal goals for Gen Z women are to become financially independent (31 percent), travel (27 percent), do well in school (26 percent), prioritize mental/physical health (24%) and finding/being in a fulfilling career (20 percent). A majority of Gen Z women (78 percent) feel immense pressure to have their lives together by the age of 30, focusing on real estate, their careers and finances.

Exploring Gen Z women’s new perspectives on life, career, injustice, social media and brands

The top goals that Gen Z women want to achieve by the time they are 30:

  1. Buy a house (32 percent)
  2. Be settled and/or fulfilled in my career (27 percent) – tie
  3. Be financially independent (27 percent) – tie
  4. Start a family (of some sort) (26 percent)
  5. Achieve financial stability (24 percent)
  6. Travel (23 percent)
  7. Find a spouse/partner (16 percent)
  8. Start my own business (15 percent)

Although Gen Z women are career-focused, they also value work-life balance

Nearly 3 in 4 (74 percent) say that after watching their parent(s) burn themselves out at work, they are making an active effort to find more balance in their lives (vs. 60 percent of non-Gen Z women). Gen Z women anticipate a less traditional, fluid work future, with 74 percent saying they “anticipate redefining my career frequently as I grow and evolve as a person.” More than half (58 percent) of Gen Z women say they prefer to work in a freelance job or their own business for flexible hours.

Exploring Gen Z women’s new perspectives on life, career, injustice, social media and brands

Gen Z women aren’t loyal to social media platforms

Almost eight in 10 (78 percent) say they are willing to try out new social media platforms that provide interesting or entertaining content. And although 86 percent say that social media is essential, 83 percent also say it is dispensable. Even so, three-quarters (75 percent) say they get the bulk of their news from social media, and 54 percent say they actively think about managing their personal brand on social media.

Exploring Gen Z women’s new perspectives on life, career, injustice, social media and brands

Platforms that Gen Z women see as dispensable:

  1. Facebook (37 percent)
  2. Instagram (36 percent)
  3. Snapchat (35 percent)
  4. Instagram Live (32 percent) – tie
  5. TikTok (32 percent) – tie
  6. YouTube (29 percent)

Platforms that Gen Z women see as essential:

  1. YouTube (62 percent)
  2. Instagram (48 percent)
  3. Snapchat (46 percent)
  4. TikTok (40 percent)
  5. Facebook (30 percent)
  6. Instagram Live (17 percent)

COVID-19 affected the mental health of Gen Z women

Nearly 1 in 4 (24 percent) say their overall mental health has decreased and 38 percent say it has made them more anxious. One-quarter (23 percent) of Gen Z women also say that COVID-19 has made them crave stability. Although this generation is often written about as being the most stressed and anxious generation to date, many Gen Z women see it as a sign of self-care and acceptance to acknowledge one’s stress and anxiety levels.

Almost eight in 10 (79 percent) say being “self-aware enough to deal with mental health issues will help me get ahead in the world,” while the same number say “It’s better to be honest about anxiety than to pretend it doesn’t exist.” In fact, mental health is the new gym to this generation, with nearly three in four (73 percent) agreeing that “If people spent as much time on their mental health as the time they spent in the gym, the world would be a better place,” and 70 percent prioritizing mental health vs. 30 percent who prioritize physical health.

Exploring Gen Z women’s new perspectives on life, career, injustice, social media and brands

Gen Z women see everything on a spectrum, including relationships

Three in four say “dating today is more on a spectrum than it has been in the past.” One in 10 or more have had three-day weekend relationships (10 percent), open relationships (11 percent) or virtual-only relationships (15 percent). Meanwhile, over a quarter have had undefined relationships (25 percent), friends with benefits (27 percent), and on-again/off-again relationships (29 percent). Gen Z women are also less interested in getting married and having children than other generations, and they are more focused on their careers, with 58 percent saying that starting their career is/was more important versus 42 percent saying that starting their family is/was more important. Less than half of Gen Z women say they feel/felt pressure to settle down with a single life partner (47 percent) or have children (40 percent). One-quarter (25 percent) of Gen Z women do not plan to have children.

This research follows Meredith and The Harris Poll’s 2019 in-depth “Burnout Flashpoint” landmark study that delved into the stress epidemic affecting the American woman.

Meredith Corporation and The Harris Poll hosted an Exponential Z webinar to unveil this new survey data. The webinar also featured a moderated discussion with three extraordinary Gen Z influencers. View the event here.

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Meredith Data Studio from June 15 to 23, 2020, among 2,707 women ages 16 and older, including 1,201 Gen Z women (age 16-23). We also conducted qualitative diaries and interviews with six Gen Z women, ranging from those in high school to recent college graduates. This Gen Z audience also included Black (n=368), Latina (n=383), White (n=264), Asian (n=162), 1st/2nd-generation American (n=624), and LGBTQ (n=301) Gen Z women.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter