Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sound Off; Natural Hair In The Workplace - Is Corporate America Ready To Accept All Forms Of Diversity?

Latrice with her curly wig << >> Latrice with her natural hair

Corporate America has already embraced our African American sisters with pressed hair, weaves and relaxers; but what about the women that don natural hair styles? It is often said that they are overlooked for promotions, skipped over during interviews and even worse; told to change their hair into more "professional" styles.
@TriceDiva sent me a tweet and said:
I wore a wig inspired by u to work [outre quick weave evony] & was told it wasn't professional...can you give your thoughts about natural hair in the workplace? I work in sales at an hotel that deems itself as conservative..they said it was too long and against the rules.
Here are my thoughts on natural hair in the workplace: 

How can the texture of your hair determine your level of professionalism? Highly textured hair is a genetic trait, and should not be treated as a fashion or political statement. In my opinion this is similar to implying that natural red hair is unprofessional or frowning upon those with natural blue eyes in the workplace [as these are all genetic traits as well]. How can we pick and choose what traits are deemed professional? And more importantly, why are we always on the receiving end of said bias?
Having worn my natural hair in certain corporate settings, I have had to answer in-depth questions about my political and cultural beliefs or be subjected to off-kilter commentary about my kinks and coils. To be quite frank, it is annoying. No one seems to express interest in my choice of music or political affiliation when my hair is bone straight or perfectly coiffed into silky, flowing locks.
Believe me, I get the ideology around it. A neat, tidy appearance breeds credibility and goes hand-in-hand with professionalism. But there is a fine line between protecting the identity of a brand and discriminating against those who don't meet society's expectations of beauty. Is Corporate America so out of touch that they can't respect the diversity of African American women? Why are styles like braids, locs and afro's looked at as unprofessional? Furthermore, what other ethnic group has to go to great lengths to "hide" and "tame" certain aspects of their genetic makeup to appear more "professional" and "neat"? 

While there have been great strides taken to diversify the workplace, there is still a primitive form of thinking that silently [and in this case not-so-silently] governs with a rod of iron. Those thoughts stem from 100 year-old beliefs that our hair in it's natural state appears dirty, un-kept and undesirable. - Let me make this clear that this isn't a black vs white issue, but a societal issue that is pressing a certain "standard of professionalism" by implying that the culturally significant hairstyles of one ethnic group [usually the minority] is unprofessional. As a result this ethnic group has to conform by choosing styles that are labeled "professional" by the self-serving ruling majority. These professional styles usually require heat or chemicals to straighten our hair therefore mirroring those same tired images perpetuated by Western culture. 

The bottom line:
Natural hair definitely has it's place in the workplace.

How do you feel about natural hair in the workplace? Do you think it is professional? I am interested in hearing other opinions on this [even if you disagree!] Has anyone out there experienced discrimination or snark comments about your hair? How long did it take before you were comfortable wearing your hair in natural styles?
For those that are pro wearing natural hair styles in the workplace I am sponsoring a giveaway just for you. Send in your best pic [nikole@themoptopmaven.com] of you rocking a natural style in the workplace, and you will be eligible to receive a $50 gift certificate to Curl Mart. Curly wigs, curly weaves, locs, braids, twa's, braid outs, twist outs, two strand twists and the likes are all accepted. The pics will be posted in an album on The Moptop Maven Facebook page, and select photos will be showcased on this site. The goal is to give others the courage to wear natural styles in the workplace whilst promoting respect for cultural diversity. - This contest will run until November 15th, 2010 11:59 PST.


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42 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Oh yes, I have come across this dilemma. I was interning in a corporate environment and wore my hair in an afro almost every day ON PURPOSE (this was before I knew about protective styling). I was one of 2 black ppl working in the office and I felt marginalized. One day I wore my hair in a bun and this woman complimented me on how nice my hair looks when it's pulled back. She was most likely just being nice but I sorta took it as why does my hair look so nice when it's back...you can't even see it. ya know what I mean? I also didn't get hired even though my team wanted to hire me. The top management blamed it on my lack of a college degree. But I try not to speculate their real reasons and it turns out I would have been miserable there and everyone has started to leave that company go figure.
    Anyways, yes, absolutely it has a place in corporate America. I think protective styling is a good way to avoid having to straighten your hair all the time. I also feel like by more women being natural in corporate spaces, it provides a positive example of natural hair. If you get turned down for a position well...maybe you should become an entrepreneur or find another place that will accept you. But if the place really values you, they will value your brains not your looks.

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  3. I feel like Good Morning America or something did a segment on this and it found that most Employers actually weren't bothered by natural hair, braids etc.

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  4. Reposting...I posted it with something I hardly use, so probably just smarter to change it.

    I'll start this off by saying I'm a white girl who is a little ignorant of how your hair works in natural state - I'd be completely ignorant if several of my close friends weren't black. They put up with me obsessing over their hair. I'm kind of in love with how african hair naturally works - I may not understand it (not that I get my own hair either - though that has more to do with its ability to defy gravity, when none of my relatives have hair that does the same) but I think it's gorgeous. I've never understood the "professional" appearance thing. Anyone can manage to look "professional" and they can still be a horrible employee. People should pay a little less attention to what someone looks like, and pay a little more attention to their behavior.

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  5. I was told I couldn't wear braids in the workplace even though the style was tasteful. The braids were thin and my hair color was black. Go figure. I actually get more prejudice from my "sistas" instead of other races.

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  6. I am a soon to be college grad and I have been wondering for a while about how to still rock my natural hair as I start to look for jobs/internships. I am so glad that you brought this issue up and maybe if more people both white and black in my generation learned to embrace natural hair, it would find a place in corporate America. p.s. I LOVE YOUR BLOG :-).

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  7. I am a law student and unfortunately these unfounded biases are not lost in higher education. For example, the dean of admissions would go out of his way to comment on how great my hair looked when i had it blown out. He usually didnt say anything and looked at me with disdain when I wouldnt get it blown out. One day he came up to me, while I was chatting with two other black female students, and said that my hair is "festive". WTF???? It really made me feel uncomfortable and angry...and unfortunately that was just the beginning of the issues i had with the school...

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  8. I havent had ANY issues with my natural hair in the workplace

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  9. I agree with you Nikole, natural hair *is* professional.I think some styles may be a tough sell because some people associate them with deviant behaviour e.g. locs or they are considered too distracting e.g. afros. These are not my views however. Saying that a company only wants an African American woman to wear her hair straight is discriminatory IMO.Also note that some of the disapproval in corporate settings is from other African Americans. Most naturals will attest to the fact that some of the compliments we get about our hair come from other ethnicities. I have not worked in corporate America but I think that if someone expresses disapproval about your hairstyle, ask them for specifics - "unprofessional" is vague. Also explain what you can or cannot do with your hair. WE have to start standing up for ourselves and educating others as well. Also know your limits! How far are you willing to go to please the company?

    Sue

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  10. I haven't had any issues with my natural hair in my workplace and I work in a congressional office. I do work for a black U.S. Rep so i don't know if that makes a difference, especially since we seem to be just as hard or ever harder on ourselves.

    It is so sad an unfair that we have to go through this at our places of employment. How dare anyone tell me that the hair that grows out of my head is "unprofessional".

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  11. I am a law student who has been transitioning for two years now and sporting twist outs in highly conservative, NYC law firm environments with no comment. To some extent, I think it depends on your work environment (is it a place where the company has say over other aspects of your personal attire, such as whether you are permitted to wear your hair up or down? I dealt with this as a waitress)

    In general though, even if it is corporate, I think it's fair to say that say, mohawks and more edgy cuts (like shaven in some areas, assymetrical etc) aren't appropriate. However, a style that simply shows your hair as it grows out of your head is NOT unprofessional, no matter the setting. Frankly, I think instances in which someone says something is a matter for HR (Human Resources), and even, the better business bureau. Workforce discrimination based on religion, race, or creed is ILLEGAL. Say something!

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  12. the comment made by that nash girl is real. BLACK people think natural hair is unprofessional. the employers are not concerned. i interviewed at every job with natural hair (twists and twistouts). i got a job at one of the biggest corporations.

    now i have in individual braids with extensions. tonight we went out for drinks and they told me they didn't even realize i had individual braids in, they couldn't even remember what my hair looked like when i interviewed, but they did remember my credentials. they told my that my hair looked sleek. that means they didn't realize what texture it was, it just looked nice and work appropriate.

    black people need to stop hating themselves. i wonder if the person who told her hair was unprofessional was black because that is generally the case.

    btw, there are only two black people in my office and everyone else is white.

    do what makes you happy. natural hair won't prevent you from getting a job, but faking the funk will.

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  13. I think Latrice with her natural hair looks gorgeous and very professional. The evony wig is cute too, but I wouldn't necessarily wear hair that big to work or to an interview. (for interviews I tone down my look, which means no big hair, no bright lipstick or glittery makeup) I usually only wear my hair big when I'm going out. (I feel like I get more attention than girls with straight styles, has anyone else noticed this?) For work I'll wear a wash n go, twists, braid outs, twist outs or a tucked bun. I think natural hair is definitely appropriate for the workplace. I think regardless of how I wear my natural hair I get comments. Some have been ignorant. But, honestly some people are just ignorant to curly/nappy hair. I can wear my hair in a different unique style everyday. Whereas a lot of my female co-workers wear theirs in the same style everyday either down or in a pony tail. But for the most part people love my natural hair at work and actually miss it when I've worn it straight. I'll get comments like "where are your curls?"

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  14. Honestly, I am not even sure why this topic of natural hair and professionalism continues to be a topic of debate and discussion. If one looks and comports herself as neat, professional, competent and articulate, then that is all that matters.

    In as far as Latrice is concerned, she needs to take herself down to her HR (Human Resources) office, and file a complaint with the Affirmative Action Officer. If that isn't possible, then she needs to consult with an attorney. Additionally, she needs to ask her workplace for written documentation stipulating that her natural wig is, "too long" and "against the rules."

    When one is challenged, she needs to challenge in return. We can debate and discuss the legitimacy of natural hair on hair blogs until time immemorial. But, if we don't stand up in our workplaces, and self-advocate, then all of the natural hair affirmation isn't going to amount to much.

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  15. this was the only thing i was afraid when going natural, how am I going to style it not necessary straighten my texture, but when i worked at university over the summer, i had a curly weave and i never pulled it back and no one told me otherwise, i know i got looks, but they probably just prejudice looks in general anyhow,but yes i would style ideas, i figured i could just pin curl or bun for the work place ,*shrugs shoulder*,Thanks!

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  16. I recently when natural and I have to say that I wasn't comfortable attending interviews with my TWA. I was partly concerned about the reaction others may have toward my hair but the major reason was that I wasn't comfortable with it. I didn't like the TWA on me. So for now I am wearing braids until my hair grows longer.


    But saying that corporate world doesn't accept natural hair style may be going a bit to far, I thing. I think the issue may be the STYLE more than the HAIR. When I go for an interview I always go for a more conservative look regardless of the hair I have on. If have a bright nail polish, I take it off same thing with makeup.

    We have to be careful not to become confrontational with our hair. If you work in a place that require you to tie you hair, why would you go with a big afro?

    And at the end of the day when we go to work you do not deal with the "corporate world", we deal with people and generally speaking people are easy to talk to and if someone when out of line by commenting on your hair a simple conversation may often do the trick. It's through dialogue that minds get change and preconceived notion get knock out of the way.

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  17. Personally, I don't think it matters much as long as you carry yourself with integrity and do a job that's done well. I'm a nurse in a corporate environment and have worn my natural hair "out" since July. I have gotten one bad comment from a co-worker "you know they make perms for us, right?" This comment I politely walked away from. Other than that, I've gotten praise for my "funky 'fro" and questions about haircare from another co-worker who is transitioning. The only thing anyone else said was "Wow...you cut your hair!" This came from people who were not black and didn't know the difference in a weave (I transitioned with sew ins) and real hair.
    Overall, I think that we, as black women, are harder on ourselves and each other when it comes to natural hair. I'm still confused by this, but it doesn't stop me from doing what I think is best for me.

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  18. My last job was in a corporate setting and at first I was terrified about wearing my natural kinks so I would wear wigs. Once I got comfortable in the enviornment I started wearing my hair out and everyone loved it. I would then often switch back and forth between wigs and my natural hair - but one day my BLACK male supervisor asked "Why do you have to wear your hair like that?"...it didn't stop me from wearing my fro to work - but as another commenter pointed out, it's often other Black people that make it a point to voice their disdain with natural hair.

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  19. Fortunately, I haven't experienced any negativity in the workplace as it relates to my natural hair. It's probably because my department hosts a group of individuals who are very diverse in their backgrounds, as the only African American in my department at first I was reluctant to wear my natural hair at work and mostly wore wigs and uncovered my hair only when not in the office. I just woke up one day and said you know what no one else has to cover their hair because it's not "professional" so why should I? And from that point on I've worn my natural hair to work. I just think like most things within our culture it'll take time, if you recall about 20-30 years ago having full lips brought forth negative connotation, and now every woman in Hollywood or women that can afford to are injecting what ever they can find into their lips in order to have fuller lips. I could never understand why certain features are considered beautiful in the American culture and others aren't, but I also can't sit around and wait for people to change their minds about it so in the meantime I do what feels good to me.

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  21. the key word here is corporate america...not white...not black...but the people that make up corporate america.

    i worked places where it was implied that i looked a mess because i wore my hair natural. i didn't have an afro i wore a braidout. i rarely get call backs on interviews if my hair is natural..but have no issues getting call backs when my hair is straight.

    to say that corporate america doesnt care is an extreme mis-statement because some of the rules and regulations regarding hair are geared towards our hairstyles. There are no braids or locs at my job. I wore a wig similar to La trices and was told I couldn't wear hairpieces. It happens people.

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  22. Corporate America is def ready for natural hair. I work at a top NYC Law Firm and I interact with attorneys, clients and partners on a daily basis. I have very thick waistlenth natural hair that I wear in twist outs and wash and gos the majority of the time. I have never ever gotten any indication that my hair was inappropraite for work. In fact, I get compliments all the time. The majority of the black women who work here (Associates and Support Staff alike) have natural hair. And this is working at one of the oldest (and whitest...) Law firm in the city. I have also worked at other Top Firms in the city as an intern and I never got negative comments either. Only positive :)

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  24. I wear my natural hair daily, in twist outs. The only issue I've ever had at work was receiving a "talking to" for wearing a tam on dress down Friday. It didn't cover my entire head, only the back. And it was not blacks who called it into question. It IS white people at work though who make a big deal of it. Sometimes they are fascinated, sometimes they don't like it. I am one of 4 blacks who work here. And I don't think my profesionalism has ever been called into question. I remain one of the best dressed in a generally, relaxed business casual atmosphere. I was raised corporate so I still tend to dress corporate.

    My experience is it has NOT been black people questioning my hair. I often wonder where some people live and work when they say things like "it's blacks who make the negative comments". I live in the midwest and blacks embrace our natural hair- not talk negatively about it. We are in the midst of a natural hair movement. There is not a day that goes by that some relaxed sista doesn't come up to me and admire my hair. So, I don't know. That's not my experience.

    I'm going to be honest and say I don't like the wig La trice wore. It seems over the top. I think she looks 100% better with her natural hair. But I think that about most people who wear wigs.

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  25. Thanks for all the comments!! I really didn't have anyone to turn to when this happened to me. My parents told me to blow my hair out and straighten it. My grandparents told me to get a relaxer. I didn't know if it was discrimination or if i should take legal action. The only place i could turn to was the natural hair community. I wore the wig because i'm on a protective style challenge and thought that if someone's real hair is this way why wouldn't it be ok. I interviewed with my natural hair and was hired with my natural hair. BUT when i wear it out i continuosly get remarks about how i look like Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. REALLY??!! As soon as i wear a twisted updo they are all hovered over me giving me compliments about how i look so "cute and professional".

    I feel that it's complete ignorance from my white co-workers and bosses but i have no desire to straighten my hair or get a relaxer. My hair has nothing to do with the amount of skills I have, my college education or my professionalism.

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  26. very interesting topic!

    Nikole (or anyone else really!), how do you feel about the recent article about american apparel preferring to hire natural african american woman?

    or how about straightening for an interview, then wearing your natural hair out once you've landed the job?

    or the statistic that says the higher level of education an AA woman has, the more likely she is to wear her hair natural? i imagine there's quite a few natural ladies in the corporate environment.

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  27. Man I had to take a deep breath before I read this one. The universe must have been aligned in a weird way yesterday - because I came from a staff meeting where my hair was literally the topic of conversation for the first half. One of my white coworkers who I consider a friend - really has had a hard time coming to terms with my big chop. He doesn't understand why I cut off all that long straight hair. LOL. Every once and awhile he comes by my office to say my hair looks longer - or it's so different - or one time he asked me if I was going to grow my hair out straight again! LOL Ironically at the ripe age of 28 he's bald as spring chicken. It doesn't really bother me. I work in DC and have worked in politics all my career. I'm used to a white male dominated atmosphere that's pretty much culturally ignorant. Plus I dish it out to baldie so I can take it. Shoot I don't like his hair either.

    But was really funny about the meeting was my 50 something year old white female boss saying yes... your hair is different. To which I replied well yes Denise - but that doesn't sound like a compliment. LMFAO which I'm sure she peed her pants at that moment. This is my same boss who once said that my fellow co-worker from Jamaica had an island attitude. Yeah - ok! Another co-worker who is white and the same age and actually good friends with my boss responded and said that she thought my hair was beautiful. To which I thanked her and smiled like a cheshire cat. This co-worker happens to have an adopted African American daughter my age and knows how to cornroll, braid and twist - so she gets it.

    My other coworkers well they don't. They don't know a lot of black women who wear their hair natural and most of the women here have perms etc. So it's new to them. We are country that's so segregated it's crazy - But what's amazing to me is that my small little crop of hair is providing education one coil at a time. Without even saying anything my hair has got a one man revolution going on up there. It's like throwing up the middle finger and the black power sign all day long. Frankly I'm loving it. Let them keep talking.

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  28. I don't think the bias is confined to black people and natural hair. Looking around my office (corporate environment and mainly white), most people have conservative hairstyles, either pulled back in a ponytail or bun or straight with a plain headband or barrette. When my hair was relaxed and I put on a colorful scarf or a headband with flowers, people would comment. Now that it's natural and I wear a twist out, people still don't comment on my hair, but on the accessories, b/c no one else here wears them.

    Also, if a white person came in rocking a style more appropriate for the weekend than our particular work environment, eyebrows would be raised, so I think we need to stop looking at everything through the lens of people being biased against us and our hair and start looking at how we may feel about ourselves.

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  29. I think it depends on the individual work environment. I've worked both in education and currently in corporate. I chopped off my perm when I was in education and rocked a twa for 3 years. The only questions I got were from the little (very sheltered) kids I worked work who'd ask me why my hair wasn't "normal" (i.e. straight) any more.
    In corporate, I interviewed with baby locs (they were all of 2-3 inches long and there was no way to style them, I rocked that (3 hour long) interview. Hand delivered my thank you cards the next day and got the job.
    My locs grew (7 years) and were constantly complemented. I cut them all off about 6 months ago and I've been rocking my twa once again.
    I'm the only black person in my office.

    Side note - I recently complimented a coworker on her curly hair do and she said "oh thanks! this is my "real" hair. I didn't have time to blow dry it straight."

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  30. I don't believe that natural hair is frowned upon in corporate america. I think they just want you to have a "tame" hairstyle. I wouldn't wear a BAA in a corporate environment because its distracting. You want people to focus on your abilities and not your hair. Most people regardless of race wear conservative hairstyles, I don't see why naturals should be any different.

    I would also like to add: I have not had any questions from or problems with anyone outside my race commenting on my hair, its always other black women with issues.

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  31. A lady came into my job monday and as I rung her up she noticed my hair was natural. She asks "Do you like wearing your hair natural?" I reply yes and I explained to her how I was still in transition. She then told me that she had been natural for 5 years up until this August when she started working at a law office. I looked at her confused and questioned "What does working in a Law office have to do with relaxing your hair" and she replied, "I do't know, I just know that I want to look as professional as possible."

    This reminded me of the episode of girlfriends when Joan got passed over for the promotion that William got. Was it because her hair was natural? #imjustsayin

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  32. Well i think all the comments pretty much sum up the things natural hair divas can sometimes face. I wear my hair natural everyday to work. They loved my short curly look after my chop but as the fro started growing, everyone became more distant. I think their attitude is mainly because we live in a city with a country mentality where anything "NEW" or "DiFFERENT" is not embraced immediately. before i went natural i had to defend one of our maintenance men who has locks because they saw his hair as unprofessional. I simply said, first off he is a maintenance man and second I know lawyers with locks...then I told them to travel a little more to diverse cities. Shut em up!

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  33. I have not experienced opposition to wearing my hair naturally at my current employer. When I first started I wore my hair pressed everyday for the most part and under a wig on lazy days lol when I debuted my natural hair at the start of my transition I got some curious looks but my firm is international (British, Scottish, Bangalesh, Singapore, Tokyo, Dubai) so we all come from different areas of the world. I believe this is why it's no biggie. Afterall I could sue them lol if it were and I definitely would ;0)

    www.lipstickmanual.blogspot.com

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  34. Style has nothing to do with it. If a woman with bone-straight hair combed out her hair, let it dry, and wore it to work as-is she'd be "professional." If I did the same and allowed my hair to dry to its natural, very voluminous state, I'd be given the side-eye at best or receive comments. Same styling. It's about texture, which is (generally) about race. Period. No matter who's calling it into question.

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  35. "It's about texture, which is (generally) about race."

    i agree with this statement. so when people (regardless of race) have something negative to say about the hair it translates into some subtle form of racism. so in my opinion, the problem is less about the hair and more about the "race" "ethnicity" or other "othering" identifier. you probably could've walked in with bone straight hair and that same person would not like you.

    there is no way to tell just be yourself.

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  36. Working in a corporate setting over the past few years, I have noticed that I make sure my hair is straightened or "appropriate" before I go to work. Its sad that I feel the need to conform & wear my hair straight to make other people feel comfortable. I wear it curly sometimes to work (I rarely do either way) but they LOVE IT!!! They actually like it better that way, which is great. But it does get VERY annoying when people want to talk to you all day about your hair & culture when its curly, but when its straight they can care less.

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  37. I work in a corporate setting in a very conservative career. I wear my curl-fro with my suits most days without incident. I have had a couple comments from clients, but most were not negative, just curious. Natural hair often attracts attention just because you don't see it every day, so I try not to take it personally.

    When I first started my career, I think I wore my hair in a bun every workday for probably 4 years. Then, I decided to see what happens when I wear it out. To my surprise most of the feedback I got was positive.

    Not to say natural hair prejudice doesn't exist in the workplace. Just saying I don't think I've experienced it.

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  38. Thank you so much for this post--I am a doctor doing my training now, and I have just decided to go natural (almost 9 months now!)

    I have/had a bit of trepidation in not flat-ironing my hair out of my own biases from growing up. I was afraid that it would be considered unprofessional, and people would treat me differently.

    However, I did do a trial day of "big & curly" and got lots of positive feedback, so I am going to consider just going with how I feel.

    It's difficult though.....there are a lot of weird assumptions there. and I agree with Poppy---you can't get your work done because people keep asking you about your hair and being black, etc.

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  39. I strongly feel that it is corporate prejudicism when they feel the need to discriminate, indirectly or directly harass, and use a person of same race to influence your decision about your natural hair. It is like telling black women also other ethnic women with really curly, kinky, coily hair that it is not OK to be who you are. Importantly it is like telling black women not to feel comfortable in your skin. I feel our hair is who we are culturally and individually. I cannot stress it enough that what person has the right to tell any human being let alone the style of hair how to be worn especially being nonoffensive and grooomed.

    I experienced being called Krusty the Clown due to my braid/plait out style I wore during my undergrad years and working for one of the offices on campus. I had attempted to dye my hair with honey highlights, and the color spilled completely all over my hair. I had white counterparts who disliked my hair and had the head person in my office to speak with me, being an African American female, to somehow lessen the blow and not lead to any threat to be made against the school policies of diversity and no discrimination based on racial identity, gender, etc. I must say it did bother me to have them use her to speak with me even more how could they say my natural hair is wrong?! I don't believe God would make any wrong about our hair naturally.

    So naturally I carried on as if it was not my problem but theirs. I continued to come to work with my natural hair. I was not about to change what I spent years already doing for myself personally with my hair. If I chose to wear it straight one day, it was based because I decided to and not someone saying it's more professional. It's shocking and sicken at the same time how people marvel and smile at you more during a straight day look. It is not always from our nonblack counterparts but our own race. I had a past employer who told me after wearing my hair natural for awhile, "Your hair looks so much better this way!" I really wanted to say what I thought was appropriate but it is best to not say out of fear of losing your job. It's a shame.

    I have a photo of myself when I defended for my MS degree from my grad program in 2006 wearing my natural hair pulled back in a barrette with loosely, thick curls. I felt proud that day for once defending my modality and modality case to my panel but to see I refused to straighten my hair for the occasion. Stood proudly with natural hair.

    To be continued...

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  40. We can be completely professional with our natural hair. There are many styles to wear natural hair even if it is sitting in an afro. What is wrong with this style if you are being professional and doing your work? Your work ethics and performance has nothing to do with your hair. Sadly people will judge you based on your hair texture and style. Some people do not understand how you can appear at work with natural hair shrinkage, and get tons of comments (my personal experience), "Did you cut your hair? It looks so short!" Then to come back a month or so later with it straight, "Oh your hair has grown longer." Um it has not changed in either situations. Others do not take the time to properly ask but just rather assume further with stereotypical views about black hair in general. When others constantly bring it up, it starts making you more cautiously aware of yourself than one needs to. I smile and carry on in my workplace as if my hair is not what you should be basing who I am as a professional.

    There is so much beauty to be had from seeing African American women with natural hair. Because we can do anything with our hair. Societal views on natural hair not just in Corporate America, nonblack counterparts, but also within our own black community. We cannot live with continuous oppression of ourselves based on exterior if we want to change our tomorrow. You don't have to worry to fit in when there is nothing wrong with you from the start. Be you!

    Another thing I have encountered people wanting to touch my hair and pull on it this goes from all ethnicities. Please do not feel at will to violate someone's personal space without asking his or her permission. I wonder if black men have had to encounter same from their profession. Some professions are more tolerable or "lenient" to accept your natural hair than other professions. Scrutinized looks, critical opinions, and bypassing us due to natural hair should stop.
    Since I started wearing my natural hair during my entire college of 6 years, it gave me enough time to feel comfortable. At first I was nervous to be judged, stared at, or questioned. Eventually I lost focus on any critical eyes and judgments to focus on doing well.

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  41. I attempted my first transition the summer after my first year in law school. After feeling enormous pressure to look corporate for on-campus interviewing I permed my hair. After studying for the bar in 2008, I tried going natural again only to succumb to the pressure of perming when I had oral argument before the Court of Appeals that December. I was concerned about what the stodgy judges would think and whether they would listen to my argument and not focus on my hair. I finally stopped considering what the appellate judges would think when I argued a case against an attorney with dreadlocks past her waist and she won (though I think the court got it wrong). I should have realized sooner that it really doesn't matter.

    At work, several female attorneys have gone natural. Its a none issue. When I first transitioned the receptionist asked me what I was doing with my hair as if I owed her an explanation. I told her that I was going natural like her since she had a TWA. I thought she was crazy. She assured me that she would not be natural for long. That was a year ago and she is still rocking her TWA. She was so used to my long permed hair that it seemed to bother her for me to change. She could accept her transition but not mine.

    I had no idea was I was doing in transitioning but my go to style was the braid out which I did during law school to prolong a trip to the salon for my next perm. I recently made some severe cuts to the front of my hair and need to resort to protective styles so it can grow back. I was eager to cut off the permed ends but left 4 inches of permed hair. I will do a protective challenge.

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