Is Natural Hair Professional in the Workplace?

 

Natural Hair in the Workplace

 

Happy Tuesday!  I know you’re wondering how the reunion was…Well, it was great! Everyone had a lovely time, caught up with old friends, and looked great!  It was like 10 years hadn’t even passed!  As I try to recouperate from this weekend, we have a guest blogger today.  Veronique George of Naturally You-The Hair Journey has written a post today regarding natural hair in the workplace.  For those of you that don’t know, I am natural and struggled with my decision initially in regards to how it would be received when I worked in corporate America.  So, enjoy the post, feel free to comment and share your experiences (good and bad), and definitely check out Veronique’s blog!

Watching me, watching me

Watching me, watching me

Watching me, watching me

Watching me

AH
And you keep sayin’ that I’m free

And you keep sayin’ that I’m free

And you keep sayin’ that I’m free…

Many times African-American and other multicultural women who wear their hair natural are not considered professional or conservative in the work place. Instead of embracing natural hair, businesses sometimes shun, or even discourage, it. After working in some of Corporate America’s top companies, I believe that natural hair is not accepted in the workplace because employers and their employees do not know what to make of it. They look at natural hair and think, “Why is it so curly? Why does it look like that?  Why can’t they comb their hair?” Most companies have an idea of what professionalism is, and most times it does not include tightly or loosely coiled curls, braids, two-strand twists, and the like. It does not look like a large afro or even an afro puff tilted to the side. Rather, professionalism is limited to the constraints of long, straight hair and even pulled back in a pony tail depending on how conservative the company may be.

Long, straight hair may be a preference even if you are natural. That is fine if women choose to do so because they want to. However, a work environment that only accepts or encourages that particular hairstyle may not be a healthy situation for natural hair wearers or the company. I have heard a lot of women say to me that they have considered going natural for a long time, but they have to wait or they just cannot do it right now for whatever the reason may be. It is very disheartening to know that women want to wear their natural hair, but are afraid because they may lose their jobs or even credibility from their counterparts. Natural hair is not a rebellious act of free speech or entitlement; it is your hair, my hair, our hair. It is an extension of the divine will of the Most High and there is nothing unprofessional about that. Our hair is an extension of who we are, our adornment. Our intricate styles dates back to Zulu women of the Congo region and beyond and celebrate our rich history.

Rather than shying away from women with natural hair, businesses have to learn to embrace them. In doing so, they embrace themselves, by embracing their consumers and the world as we know it. Diversity of thought, culture, and even hair should be supported and celebrated. Work place environments should reflect the colorful DNA of the world and reflect the neighborhoods, grocery stores, beauty parlors, and shopping centers where companies conduct business.

Natural hair is here to stay. It is beautiful, it is professional, it can and cannot be “conservative.” It must become standard that when businesses hire minorities, including African-American women, they hire their hair as well. Now this does not mean women can nor should come to work without putting their best foot forward and properly caring for and maintaining their hair. But a job offer should not be contingent on the conditional statement: we will hire you if and only if you do something with your hair. Professionalism relates to the expertise and know-how you bring to the table, how you conduct yourself in business settings, and a well-kept appearance. Women with natural hair should not be watched, scoped, demoted, or considered not to be a “good-fit” in the workplace. Instead, they should be able to freely and unapologetically wear their natural hair tresses.

Veronique George, is a marketing and advertising consultant. She is also a natural hair consultant. Her blog, “Naturally You: The Hair Journey,” can be found at: http://www.hairspiration.webs.com.

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