Generation Z is the queerest generation ever.

One in six adults in Generation Z identifies as LGBTQ+, according to survey data released by Gallup in February. That’s nearly double the proportion of millennials who identify as LGBTQ+; the gap widens further with older generations.

How will this impact the future of work? Ask young job seekers or early career professionals and you’ll find Gen Zers who care deeply about diversity, inclusivity and intersectionality, and who are demanding more human-centric ways of working.

In order to understand what Gen Zers expect and demand from their future employers and workplaces, we gathered the insights and advice of outspoken Gen Zers themselves. Our interviewees were creators and leaders, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies — the early career professionals who will determine what the future of work looks like.

As one of our interviewees, Maia Ervin, put it, “This generation wants more from their employer compared to previous generations. What worked for millennials will not work for Gen Z.”

Kahlil Greene, Gen Z inclusion expert

Greene works with schools, nonprofits and corporations to make workplaces more inclusive for Gen Z; online, he unpacks US history and politics as The Gen Z Historian.

Companies are increasingly seeking the guidance of diversity and inclusion experts to attract, retain and understand the expectations of diverse Gen Zers. As one such expert, Greene has even worked with the White House.

“Diversity and inclusion experts can share a list of probable issues your organization faces and a list of probable solutions,” he says. “But that is all our expertise can give you: advice. The people working in any given organization are the ones who know it best.”

Therefore, employees themselves must feel empowered to speak up about anything that makes them feel unsafe or excluded — and have the means of doing so. That requires the implementation of accessible and meaningful feedback channels.

Greene would also like to see more importance placed on intersectionality. “I’ve been to LGBTQ+ community events at work where almost 90 percent in attendance were cisgender white men. My friend, who is Afro-Latina, said there were hardly any women who looked like her in the Latinx affinity group. These are huge blinders for internal spaces meant to be championing ‘diversity’ within organizations, and I’ve hardly ever seen it discussed in the office.”

Lily Joy Winder, community inclusion coordinator, Gen-Z for Change

Winder is a freshman at Stanford University and serves as the community inclusion coordinator at Gen-Z for Change, a nonprofit promoting civil discourse and political action among Gen Zers.

Winder would like to see more compassion from employers regarding the economic hardships LGBTQ+ workers disproportionately face. LGBTQ+ households, for example, are nearly twice as likely to experience food and economic insecurity than non-LGBTQ+ households, according to a 2021 census survey.

“I know high school–age queer people and trans individuals who tirelessly work at minimum wage jobs because they live in constant fear of being financially cut off from their parents for being LGBTQ+,” she says. “This is even more true for Black and brown LGBTQ+ folks. Employers need to humanize their employees in general, but especially if they know one of their employees is LGBT.”

She adds, “A little grace and understanding from employers could go a long way.”

Claire Tadokoro, comedian and creator

Tadokoro is a writer, comedian and creator who regularly pokes fun at the quirks of the modern workplace.

Tadokoro has found no shortage of comedy potential in the foibles and failings of HR departments. “I have a good amount of HR videos out there,” she says. “I’ve run into people understandingly thinking that is my profession.” While her content is chiefly for laughs, Tadokoro has given a lot of serious thought to what employees should expect from their employers.

“I think the most important thing an employer can do for their LGBTQ+ employees — and really just all employees in general — is to strive for accessibility,” she says.

To keep themselves accountable, Tadokoro says, employers must continually ask themselves tough questions like, “Does the company offer employee resource groups? Are there benefits for LGBTQ+ employees such as fertility treatment reimbursement, paid parental leave, gender-affirming healthcare, or a strong EAP program? Are restrooms safely accessible to people of all identities?”

Tadokoro also argues that employee resource groups — employee-led groups that aim to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace — should be more prevalent. “ERGs are a safe space for conversations to be held and questions to be asked by the people who it matters to most.”

Shruti Rajkumar, journalist and director of advocacy at the Asian Americans with Disabilities Initiative

Rajkumar, a recent graduate of Emerson College, is a journalist reporting on marginalized communities, social issues and the intersection of race and disability.

“I’ve seen a rise in pronoun sharing,” Rajkumar says. While this is a good thing, nuance is essential.

“Sharing pronouns can sometimes result in transgender people feeling forced to out themselves in spaces where they might not feel comfortable doing so. A better approach is to ask people to share their pronouns if they feel comfortable doing so. Adding just those few words at the end can make a huge difference.”

Rajkumar is also the director of advocacy at the Asian Americans with Disabilities Initiative. They are Asian and disabled and, like Kahlil Greene and many Gen Zers, believe that true inclusivity is intersectional by definition.

“An intersectional approach to inclusivity first requires employers to know that people don’t exist in monoliths or in silos of identities,” they say. “For instance, white LGBTQ+ people have different experiences than LGBTQ+ people of color — just like how white disabled people have different experiences than disabled people of color, and so on.”

Gabe Garcia and Maia Ervin, chief people officers, JUV Consulting

Garcia and Ervin promote diversity and inclusion, internally and externally, with JUV Consulting, a Gen Z marketing agency.

JUV Consulting recently went online to critique various brands’ Pride Month merch wins and fails

As Garcia explains, companies and brands need to support the LGBTQ+ community all year round — not just every June. 

The foundation, they say, must be empathy and kindness. “Young people have been and are going through a lot — socially, academically, and professionally — as they grow into themselves in the midst of a never-ending pandemic. When employers meet Gen Zers where they are and show that they care for and support them, their investment in success and the workplace only grows.

“If not for the empathy and openness I was shown as a queer and trans person in the workplace, I would not be doing the work I do now to pass that kindness and grace on to others.”

Ervin suggests that companies adopt open door policies. “As a Black queer woman, I understand the importance of elevating the voices of the unheard, especially in spaces where they may feel overlooked,” she says. “An open door policy encourages employees to voice their opinions, gratitude and concerns at any given time.”

She adds, “Gen Z is the most diverse generation ever and we need and crave safe spaces to freely express and explore our identities. Employers shouldn’t stop this exploration during the work day but encourage it.”

Gia Lee, co-founder & chief strategy officer, NinetyEight

Lee is an entrepreneur and co-founder of NinetyEight, a Gen Z marketing agency that has produced campaigns for PepsiCo, Paul Frank and Meta. 

NinetyEight recently produced a TikTok that showcased its staffers’ unconventional email sign-offs. (Celine: “Seeyas later”; Truman: “That’s all”; Gia: “hehe bye”).

The viral clip is for laughs,but according to Lee, there’s a truth there somewhere: the importance of recognizing and understanding one’s colleagues as human beings, with rich lives and experiences outside of work.

“It’s easy to get put in a box or be labeled as one thing in the workspace,” she says. “Everyone should have a platform to speak their truth on their terms.”

To that end, Lee recommends — beyond the idiosyncratic email sign-offs — that leaders create safe, open environments for “asking questions and learning about each other’s experiences and identities beyond the workplace.” These can be roundtable discussions or more casual sharing sessions.

Lee also believes that a truly inclusive workplace is a “non-hierarchical, feedback-rich environment” in which all workers feel empowered to speak up. “There should be an opportunity, not just for managers to evaluate their employees, but for everyone of all levels — even interns — to evaluate their superiors,” she says.

“Personally, as a manager, I often realize that I learn just as much and even more from my employees than they do from me. When it comes to inclusivity, it’s important that you’re not assuming people’s wants and needs but rather hearing it directly from the source.”