The Future Is Female: How Brands Can Support the Most Socially Conscious Generation of Girls Yet


By: Brittany Straughn, Senior Account Executive

Today is International Day of the Girl, a day the United Nations declared a holiday five years ago to “highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.” At Cone, we wish this day could be accompanied by a parade and a fundraiser and a day off for action – because we believe girls across the world deserve to be celebrated. Girls experiencing all kinds of adversity, challenges and opportunities deserve experiences to learn and thrive in safe, supportive environments. Luckily, we have hope that this is happening across the world thanks to the efforts of many who, like us, see the impact girls will have on the future of our society.

Girls have recently been empowered to reach for their dreams more than ever before. From Let Girls Learn to Girls Who Code, there is an international narrative lifting girls up to help them realize their worth. Data from 2017 Cone Gen Z CSR Study: How to Speak Z serves as proof that girls see themselves as agents for change, and supports an idea many have come to tout on picket signs and t-shirts – the future is, indeed, female. Here’s why:

  • Mature Gen Z females stand out as the clear leader in pushing for social and environmental change among men of a similar age and in comparison to the general population
  • 98% of Gen Z females believe companies should help support issues
  • 94% say they would buy from a company supporting social and environmental causes

There is another statistic that really stood out to us – young women are the leaders in believing companies should support gender-based issues like LGBTQ and women’s rights. This struck a chord with us because we believe there are many ways companies can support specific social issues authentically through CSR efforts, which would help them meet the expectations of young, female social justice warriors. Here are a few ways businesses can stand up to resonate with this group:

  • Walk the talk: our study found young women are more critical of companies and are more likely to boycott based on company values, especially in comparison to her male counterparts. What does this mean for a company seeking to speak out on behalf of an issue? You will be positioned for success if you couple that speaking out with standing up. Put in the work, the money, and the time to truly make a difference on behalf of the issue you are interested in exploring. Enlist members of affected populations, subject matter experts and third-party validators to ensure your philanthropy, volunteering or other engagement program is poised to truly do good in the world. And, do all of this well before you begin communicating on behalf of this work.
  • Be a good employer, and encourage other businesses to do the same: among the totality of issues a company could address, Gen Z stated being a good employer as top of the list. But this means something very different to younger generations than just paying employees adequately and offering a 401K. Girls are growing up in a time when they see transgender rights as human rights, equal pay as a no brainer and student loan debt as an omnipresent part of their future. They will look to their prospective employers to take these considerations into account when crafting benefits and employee engagement programs.
  • Aid this generation in cracking the glass ceiling: equal pay and gender parity have been top of mind for feminists and activists for many years, and numerous groups have persevered to close the gap, but more needs to be done. This generation of girls deserves a fair share that their parents and older sisters haven’t had in their careers. Businesses have an opportunity to put a stake in the ground around this issue and show girls they are deserving of equal treatment.

Girls should be a focus for businesses not only for recruiting future employees and fostering loyal consumers, but also because this group is growing up with access to more female role models than ever before. We predict this will help them grow to be CEOs, presidents and beacons of strength for those around them. Their propensity to support companies and push for social change means they are poised to be the leaders of our future. A recent U.S. presidential candidate said it best: “to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” The ambition to make a difference within this generation of girls is inspirational. Let’s hope businesses will follow their lead.