Black Hair in the Workplace
Question: Should something as variant as a hairstyle compromise a career?
Before you answer, check out this article I wrote for the We Magazine for Women website: Natural Or NOT? I intentionally submitted the article there (to a predominately Caucasian website) because I think it's an relevant conversation to have across the cultures.
Historically, hair is a very sensitive subject in African-American culture. Many of us have been socialized to think our hair is "ugly" or unattractive unless it is chemically straightened. Having my hair "relaxed" since I was a little girl, I had always been curious about what my hair looked like in it's natural state. It wasn't until I read "How I do my hair in thee easy steps" by Heather B, did I decide to take a risk and see what I was born with. (BTW, I read the article here on Blogher last year!) I must say I LOVE my hair natural. I feel more "me" than I've ever felt. But, it has been a difficult journey. Some people (mostly older) are ashamed of my choice to wear my hair "nappy". Besides, I think my mom keeps an emergency hot comb in her purse, just in case I fall under the influence of a mind-altering drug; after which, she can take full advantage of me and straighten my hair.
My Hair and My Work
Do you think hair influences or impacts one's professional advancement? Now, I'm not talking about walking around with messy hair, but something a bit more complex, like preferences. I'm thinking more along the lines of how hair, which is nothing more than dead fiber, can limit opportunities for friendship, compliments and even work!
Does it affect how others (in my case, clients and colleagues) relate to Black women? It's scary to think my ability to be "attractive" is so closely linked to my professional success (can you say lookism?). In short, would someone pass on my business services because they find my hair unattractive? The thought makes me dizzy.
Ugly or just different?
Further adding to the complexity of all this is the fact that we each have our own "bent" toward what we consider physically favorable or attractive. For instance, one potential client may find my "fro" a cutting-edge, non-conformist indication of my strong personality. While another [potential] client may see a wild, rebel at war against the "establishment". It all depends on where you were raised, how you were raised and around whom you were raised.
Either way, you've gotta get to know me to see who I am. Herein lies the problem: will people give themselves a chance to find out who I am before going on to another prospective consultant? I hope so because I just love my fro!