Stephen Dunmore

About the author : Stephen Dunmore

CEO North America Schools at Sodexo

After years in the spotlight as America’s dominant drivers of youth culture, Millennials took a backseat to make way for their younger counterparts, Generation Z. And while they may still seem like the new kids on the block, the oldest members of Generation Z were born in 1997 and are already establishing themselves as young adults, pursuing higher education and embarking on careers of their own. While this generation will continue to hold the attention of marketers, media outlets and policymakers for years to come, those of us who serve school-aged children are already delving into the defining features of the next generation—Generation Alpha.

A new report from Hotwire Global, titled Understanding Generation Alpha, offers a glimpse into these children’s lives. And while it’s fun to note that they named the ability to fly as the most desirable superpower and that chocolate seems to be maintaining its long-time spot as the favorite ice cream flavor, the report reveals a much more important truth: Gen Alpha is the most diverse generation yet.

 

Growing Up in a Diverse World

In the U.S., 47% of those under age 18 do not identify as white. A striking 96% of Gen Alpha students believe it’s important to treat all people fairly, no matter what they look like; this is significantly higher than the 79% of Millennials who agreed with this statement when they were children. Gender equality is equally important to this generation, with 79% of boys and 86% of girls in Generation Alpha stating that it’s very important for boys and girls to be treated fairly. And 93% believe people should be accepted for who they are. Growing up in an increasingly diverse world is shaping Gen Alpha’s views and expectations.

As a young Black man with ambitions to achieve success in the business world, I experienced racism early in my professional career. Despite earning an advanced degree from one of the most prestigious colleges in the country and working my way through numerous leadership roles, I still had to overcome both subtle and overt biases throughout my career. It is wonderful to know that this new generation is growing up in a world that’s more diverse than ever, one in which companies actively champion diversity and consciously promote inclusion.

But there is still much work to be done. Schools, businesses and other organizations must embrace Gen Alpha’s unprecedented diversity and work to guide them as they grow and develop their interests. It is essential that we create a culture that that celebrates individuality and fosters equity.

This is one of the reasons I’m so proud to work for Sodexo. I have always been passionate about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). Sodexo’s longstanding commitment to these principles has frequently been recognized within the industry. For example, DiversityInc listed Sodexo as a 2020 Hall of Fame company for our ongoing efforts to foster diversity and create inclusive communities. After recent events brought attention to the need to do more, Sodexo transitioned from a focus on diversity and inclusion to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). For Sodexo, this shift means placing greater emphasis on removing barriers at all levels, from individual obstacles to systems that perpetuate inequality.

 

Social Issues that Matter to Gen Alpha

Generation Alpha is perhaps the most socially conscious generation yet. Important priorities for this generation include making sure everyone has enough food to eat, which 97% of students believe is important, and taking care of the environment, a priority for 95% of Gen Alpha. Their passion is admirable—if they can properly harness it, they can someday change the world. However, like every generation before them, they will need guidance on this journey.

I’m honored to serve on the board of Youth Service America (YSA), which strives to build character and leadership skills among today’s youth. YSA believes that youth, communities and democracy thrive when we all work together for the common good and that meaningful service activities create strong, diverse communities of civically engaged young people. YSA offers programs to youth, educators, community organizations and families, encouraging young people to become leaders through volunteering, community service, service-learning and voting/civic engagement.

 

Gen Alpha: A Work in Progress

The next generation’s interest in social justice and desire for equity gives me great hope for the future. Many of these children are still quite young, and some of their interests are sure to shift and evolve as they grow. One thing that will certainly not change, though, is the importance of celebrating the incredible diversity within Gen Alpha. As employers, educators and community leaders, we must work together to create a world that honors and respects that diversity and encourages children to celebrate their individuality.

December 15, 2021