The women of Gen Z are riding a new feminist wave and proving that they are already a force with which to be reckoned.
From actresses like Rowan Blanchard, who use their platforms to advocate for diversity and intersectionality, to everyday teens disrupting the status quo, these young women don’t just talk about action and gender equality—they live it.
This International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at some of these girls, who prove that it’s never too early to start changing the world.
Emma González, 18
Less than a month ago, Emma González was just your average high-school senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That all changed on February 14, when a gunman entered her school and fatally shot 17 of her peers and teachers.
Almost overnight, González became one of the leading voices of the student-led #NeverAgain movement, pushing for legislation to prevent gun violence. Just days after the massacre, she addressed her community in a powerful speech in which she repeatedly called “BS” on what she perceived as a societal and governmental failure to address the threat posed by guns.
Turning her grief and anger into fuel to bolster her voice and cause, González even confronted NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch live on CNN.
As she and other students and gun-control activists nationwide prepare for the March for Our Lives on March 24, González will undoubtedly continue to be the amazingly articulate, passionate standard-bearer for what student activism can be.
Yara Shahidi, 18
Not many people can say that former First Lady Michelle Obama wrote their college recommendation letter. But Yara Shahidi can.
Shahidi, who first came to national prominence for her role as Zoey Johnson on ABC’s show Black-ish and its spinoff Grown-ish, has for several years been an outspoken advocate for greater diversity and representation of women of color in the media.
The good word from Obama paid off, as Shahidi has been accepted to Harvard University, where she plans to double-major in sociology and African American studies. For the time being, she has deferred enrollment to continue work on Grown-ish.
Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny, 10
Mari Copeny demonstrates that you don’t have to wait until you’re officially a teenager to start working for positive change—or even until you’ve reached double digits.
In 2016, Copeny wrote an email to then-President Barack Obama introducing herself as “Little Miss Flint.” She requested a meeting with the president to discuss the Flint, Michigan water crisis, writing: “I am one of the children that is effected [sic] by this water, and I’ve been doing my best to march in protest and to speak out for all the kids that live here in Flint.”
Not only did the president respond, but he also met with Copeny in person when he visited Flint that summer.
Just this year, Copeny and her family raised more than $16,000 so that several hundred underprivileged kids in Flint could go see a viewing of Black Panther.
“Kids need to see themselves as superheroes,” says Copeny.
Rowan Blanchard, 16
Almost from the moment Rowan Blanchard was cast in the leading role of the Disney Channel reboot Girl Meets World, she began to use her immense social media following to speak out on social and political issues she believes in, such as intersectional feminism.
The A Wrinkle in Time actress came out as queer in 2016 while also speaking out against binary gender and sexuality labels, lending support and strength to her hundreds of thousands of followers.
Blanchard’s online activism made the leap to real life in January 2017, when at 15, she was a featured speaker at the Women’s March in Los Angeles. On a podium in front of thousands, she stated the power of Generation Z, saying that “we are a generation that recognizes the collective power and potential that can be generated through social media.” In harnessing her voice on and off the internet, Blanchard is a bona fide political force.
Mikaila Ulmer, 13
Lots of kids Mikaila Ulmer’s age have lemonade stands, but Ulmer took hers a few steps further.
Inspired by a bee sting in 2009, Ulmer developed a fascination with bees and their preservation.
Ulmer founded Me and the Bees Lemonade, based on her great-grandmother’s recipe sweetened with local honey. Ten percent of sales profits are donated to honeybee advocacy groups.
With supporters like Shark Tank’s Daymond John, it’s clear that Ulmer’s success and passion for her cause will only continue to grow.