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Brief Published: 15 Mar 2016

Gen Z & Gender: Beyond Binaries

Some 56% of US Gen Zers know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns

US Gen Z consumers (aged 13 to 20) are far more open-minded and permissive than millennials (aged 21 to 34) with respect to issues of gender and sexuality – according to a 2016 study presented by global advertising agency JWT during South by Southwest 2016 in Austin, Texas, on Friday. Highlights include: 

  • Identity Shift: Those belonging to Gen Z believe that gender doesn't define a person as much as it used to. More than a third strongly agree with this, in comparison with 23% of older millennials (aged 28 to 34).
  • Gender Blurring: Some 56% of Gen Zers know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns – such as "they," "them" or "ze" – compared to 43% of older millennials. Gen Z also feels that public spaces should provide access to gender-neutral bathrooms, with 70% supporting the idea versus 57% of millennials.
  • Flexible Shopping: Gen Z members are rejecting the gender binary while shopping and are less likely to buy clothes designed for their gender than millennial consumers. Some 44% of Gen Z said they always bought clothes designed for their own sex, versus 54% of millennials.
  • Exploring Sexuality: Only 48% of Gen Z identify as exclusively heterosexual, in comparison with 65% of those belonging to the millennial generation.

Younger consumers are reforming their identities around their interests, intents and habits, marking a shift away from traditional definitions of gender, sexuality, race and demographics – see SXSWi 2015: Dissolving Demographics for more. Brands need to pay attention to consumer micro-contexts to stay relevant, as outlined in 2016: Look Ahead – Consumer Lifestyle.

Look out for our full coverage of key themes from SXSW 2016, coming soon.

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