We are beginning to see Gen Z shaping politics around the world. 25-year-old Maxwell Frost just became the first Gen Zer elected to Congress in the US. “History was made tonight. We made history for Floridians, for Gen Z, and for everyone who believes we deserve a better future,” he tweeted. Furthermore, young people came out in record numbers to vote in this year’s US midterm elections. According to 2 polls, about 1 in 8 voters were under 30. But it’s not only in the US that Gen Zers are having an impact. Namibian Emma Inamutila Theofelus became one of Africa’s youngest ministers this year when she was appointed to the cabinet at the age of 23. 25-year-old Goitsemodimo Anna Tsele is currently a ward councillor in the Mogale City Local Municipality in South Africa.
Why is it important?
Having more younger people at the table means that decision makers must take into account a variety of points of view. Gen Zers are on track to be the most diverse cohort yet according to Pew research, bringing with them a variety of political beliefs not necessarily subscribed to by the old guard. According to the Gates Foundation’s 2022 Goalkeepers Report, poor countries can “chart a new course by investing in their young people… if young people are healthy, educated, and productive, there are more people to do the kind of innovative work that stimulates rapid growth”. One major concern for young people is climate change. At the recent COP 27 gathering in Egypt, young activists voiced their concerns about the role big polluters play in damaging the environment – and their futures. Such is the level of concern about the future that the University of East Anglia in the UK offers a new course to help students cope with eco-anxiety.
What can businesses do about it?
The business sector in South Africa is still predominantly led by white males, according to the Department of Employment and Labour’s 2019 Employment Equity Report. Businesses can take a lesson from politics by ensuring that younger voices are represented in their organisations. Gen Zers make up the future workforce – and customers. Aside from age, they are diverse in terms of gender, sexual orientation, race and disability status. Leaders would do well to hear what they have to say, before making decisions in the boardroom. According to the World Economic Forum, the business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming.
By Faeeza Khan
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