Natural Hair In The Workplace?

"I am a Black woman from continental Africa who chooses to have natural Black hair, not relaxed or chemically altered in any way. I wear my natural hair not as some political statement but because it is the hair that God gave me and intended me to have, just as it was intended for some Caucasians to have blue eyes or blond hair.

I have heard about women and men of African descent being overlooked for promotions or outright being fired because they choose to wear their natural hair, braids, twists, mini Afros, locs and so forth. I understand that you do not represent all white people nor do you speak for the whole white race, but I wanted to know if whites in general feel disdain for natural Black hair in corporate America, or is it just an overblown issue?"

Read the response here

What are your thoughts on this? Does it really matter? Are you one of those who conform to these expected standards? Or do you give a flying flip and rock your hair anyway? I want to hear from you...

7 Responses:
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In some businesses I believe people let their personal bias affect the hiring process.

Sometimes it's not the company's policy to not promote or hire persons on merit as opposed to other factors such as race, class, familiarity, etc. There are alot other factors that are taken into consideration besides hair.

Awesome topic to discuss.

Let me begin by saying that this is when hair becomes more than just it's beyond one's identity...a factor that would get in the way of one's successes in life, if they let it.

I'm a natural, and I haven't had any issues in regard to wearing my hair "naturally" in the workplace. I don't have to straighten either; I simply pull my hair into a bun, clip or other updo style, just like the rest of the employees do. Regardless of race and hair texture, we all wear our hair pulled back.

But I've come across plenty of naturals who have stated that they don't want to have to "tame" their do to get a corporate job.

And to be honest, I'm not biting on the idea that naturals can't wear their hair "naturally" in the workplace. You have a lot of naturals that absolutely refuse to straighten, smooth, or even style their hair. They state their concerns as if natural curls can't be pulled into an elegant bun or updo, or as if dreads can't be styled in a professional manner.

My thing is that a lot of naturals tend to be absolutely non-compliant towards the idea of wearing a restricted, corporate hair style like a bun or a short hair cut. Instead, they want to wear the 'fros and the twists and the cornrows, and 'cry wolf' when someone expresses their concern about their so-called "extreme hair." Many naturals act as if they can't wear their hair in any other manner. But in being a natural, one should know that natural hair is versatile. So what's so wrong with pulling the hair back into a ponytail or bun or updo or even using a hot hair appliance? I wear my hair pulled back and even straighten my hair on occasion, but that doesn't mean I'm any less natural.

Before anyone pounces on me, let me state that white people also have a standard to follow. In fact, we all have a standard to follow in corporate America. I'm sure white women with long and curly hair or white men who want to wear dreads and longer hair have also had to find an alternative as well. So they go get the hair cuts and pull their long hair in updos and more "corporate friendly" styles to meet the requirements of the job. Last I remember, white people couldn't wear their hair "au naturale" and flowing in the wind either.

To wrap it all up: naturals have the versatility to choose their hair style. If he or she chooses to wear their hair in an Afro, they better be ready to take the flack for it, especially if a co-worker or customer expresses a concern. It's all about choice; one can either wear a bun or updo, or if their hair isn't long enough, a tapered cut or a nicely-manicured TWA, or wear a twist-out and risk questioning. And finally, black people aren't the only people that are living up to a standard; people of all backgrounds have a corporate standard to live by.

But of course, many of those complaining about wearing natural hair at work are the same people that would be happy to pick the eyeshadow for the day or a new makeup shade to wear to work, yet they refuse to comply with hair style codes...Many will do anything to wear nice clothing and have great makeup, but since when was hair an exception? I sense a double-standard...

this is interesting to me last year at school I thought there would've been an issue with me wearing twists and braids but all my Caucasian teachers loved it! I was shocked but i guess it all depends where you are.

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I agree with T. Unfortunate as it may be, I do think that how acceptable curls are during an interview depends greatly upon your field and your location. Being in Atlanta, there is more diversity in the workplace than in other areas. There are also more naturals, but that doesn't mean that you won't be judged by your choice of hairstyle or even by your race. That said, I think that in this economy, one must choose their battles. Sometimes pressing or bunning your hair for a conservative interview or for the first few weeks of a corporate job can help your employer get to know YOU and not be so shellshocked by your hair, which is only an extension of you, not who you are in totality. It's like removing a piercing.

To avoid a long winded response, I'll say that one must be aware of their surroundings and the potential judgements that can be made based on appearance. Sometimes you have to play the game to stay on the team.

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