Women & Hair: Does It Affect Your Career?
3/6/2013 11:00:00 AM
I have known friends to remove a gold tooth for a job. Others have hidden tatoos that could hinder their professional growth. While crazy hair color or mile –high mohawks could be a distraction, rocking your natural do should be okay, right? I mean, your hair is neat, clean, curly versus straight – you look and feel fly when you leave the crib! But for some, the natural look has some second guessing if it works in the workplace. Could the texture or style of your hair preventing you from being hired? Does it lessen your chance for promotion in vertain companies? It was a topic of discussion during “Black Women, Their Hair & The Work Place – A Dialogue” at Georgia State University.
From Black Voices:
Approximately 100 women gathered last week to contemplate the idea that their skills, talent and intelligence could be overshadowed by a hairstyle. And more often than not, the concern is based on women of color sporting their natural hair. Yes, the hair that grows naturally from the roots of our heads could be contributing to the growing unemployment rates. Baffling. Men are not immune to this hairy situation either. Last Summer, Hampton University issued a ban on cornrows and dreadlocks for male business students.
“You’re talking about being polished and (having) interview skills and yet no one is addressing the fact that natural black hair has been traditionally seen as not polished on its own whether it’s well cared for or not,” James “Jay” Bailey, chief executive officer of Operation HOPE and a panelist at the event, told SaportaReport. “So basically it’s all about maintaining the Eurocentric standpoint.”
This stance sadly echoes the stereotypes that we've fought against, and the personal freedoms we've strived to gain for so long. In fact, they're fighting words.
Case in point, take the firestorm that ensued a few years ago when a white Glamour magazine editor told a group of women at a New York law firm that afros were a "no-no", and that a "political" hairstyle like dreadlocks was inappropriate for the workplace. Black women were outraged and the comments got the editor six weeks on probation and ultimately resulted in her resignation.
Or when controversy stirred after meteorologist Rhonda Lee was fired from her post at Louisiana's KTBS news channel after defending her right to rock her short natural hairstyle via the television station's Facebook page.
Diversityinc.com’s Luke Visconti’s “Ask the White Guy column”, answered a letter from a young black executive who worried her natrual locks would mess with her career growth. His answer?
“….There’s no doubt in my mind that Black people have been overlooked for promotions because of natural hair or darker skin color. Psychological tests show that people most trust people who look like them. Since white men run most corporations in this country, straightened hair and/or lighter skin is going to be an advantage (disturbing, but let’s keep it real). However, allowing a bias like this to go unchecked is detrimental to business, as hair texture has no connection to talent or ability. An inability to manage past immaterial things like this makes a company less competitive. This is where diversity management returns on investment. Companies that manage past bias and hire, mentor and promote equitably have better talent. They are also better prepared for the future as our country becomes more diverse. Our DiversityInc Top 50 data proves that representation is tied to recruitment and retention. This isn’t a theory; it’s a reality for companies that earn a spot on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. DiversityInc Top 50 companies have up to twice as much representation of Black, Latino and Asian people in management than the overall management work force in the United States. Equity equals quality. That means a corporate culture that is so out of touch with reality as to not have good diversity management is not a good place for anyone to work–not just Black people. If you think your company “isn’t ready for natural hair,” then you should check out our career center right now.”
Prejudice and stereotyping will always exist. The best way to fight? Being the best you that you can be – natural, permed, extensions, etc. Let your attitude, education, and ability speak for itself. If you feel you must conform, that is your choice but you make that decision – don’t let it be done for you!
You can never please everyone but you have to be happy with yourself. When criticized, investigate if it is a truth you need to face and warrants correction. If it’s simply due to prejudice or hatred rooted in jealousy or ignorance, don’t worry about it. For every hater, there is someone who will appreciate you – natural and all.