What It’s Like to Wear Natural Hair Texture in Corporate America
Wearing your Nappy, Kinky, and Dreadlocked Hair In A Professional SettingNatural hair is quickly becoming the “it” way to rock your hair. Growing up my natural hair idols were Tia and Tamera Mowry and the singer Brandy. I loved the twins curly tresses and brandy’s stylish box and micro braids. When I became an adult, I dibbled and dabbled into the world of natural hairstyles but fully committed around ten years ago. One of my biggest concerns about going natural was the perception of me in corporate America. I stepped into the corporate world for the first time as a crime and court reporter. At this time my go-to style was a twist out or a huge puff. I was a bit out there in terms of the way I dressed. I even had a hooped nose ring which I removed as soon as I found out I had the job. The more people I met, the more I realized that people loved my hair. I believe the admiration for my hair stemmed from the confidence I had when I wore it. People are attracted to your energy so keep it light and positive.
Corporate StandardsWhen working a corporate job, fitting in is expected. Dress the part, walk the walk and always talk the talk. When it comes to hair, the standard is as follows: Straight hair, subtle colored hair with minimum makeup and no flashy jewelry. Seems pretty dull to me but this is the expectation of the right look. I’ve fallen victim to fitting Into the mode by doing things such as straightening my hair or even relaxing it. Yes, I actually relaxed my hair out of frustration with keeping up with the standard at one point many years ago. When I announced that I was locing my hair, my father once he asked me “how do you think locing your hair will affect getting a job in corporate America.” My response was “if a job can not accept my hair then I don’t need to work there.” This is my motto, and I have been able to stick to it.
UnprofessionalI do not have any personal stories regarding being shunned due to my hair. But I know plenty of people who have been asked to change their natural hair due to going against the grain. unprofessional. Is this against the law? Is this discrimination? Let’s explore these questions in the next section.
LawsSad to say the law cannot block companies from permitting companies from imposing unfair and unjust grooming standards. These standards often are not built for Women of color. Maybe this is why you see so many women in positions of power with straightened hair. In various cases, courts have ruled against black women in hair discrimination cases. This is no surprise given the standard of beauty is often modeled after European styled hair. People outside of the world of natural hair have never bothered to understand Black hair but instead have expected that woman of color change our hair to their Eurocentric beauty standards—long, straight locks with subtle colors. This expectation often proceeds Black women to spend a ton of money and time on relaxers, flat irons, bimonthly salon appointments, all in an effort to meet work-sanctioned grooming standards. Keeping up with a style that you really do not want is draining and stifling. But is such hair discrimination unconstitutional? According to research by Rewire News, “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, thinks it is. But the Supreme Court hasn’t yet agreed, thus leaving lower courts to muddle through without guidance from the high court.”
DistractionI absolutely hate when I hear people say that they were reprimanded due to a distracting hairstyle. I can never forget one day a manager at a former job asked a worker to change her hair because of the style and color. She had a naturally curly hairstyle, and it was bright red. To me, this was her choice, and aside from the fact of her hair, she was a top-notch employee. The way she wore her hair should not have been an issue.
Different than the NormSome may think natural hair can be a career liability. But to me and many others, natural hair is a look of originality, pride, and elegance. I would like to be an example to younger men and women. If I can land a corporate job with blonde locs you can be free to wear your hair in its natural state and capture the career of your dreams as well.
Positive FeedbackI remember when I first went a management position. I was afraid if my short afro, but once I arrived I realize my fears were just that worries, and eventually I came to understand that everyone loved and accepted my hair. The most considerable leap I have taken when it comes to my hair was locing it. I was pretty comfortable with my job, but I was worried that of being overlooked for the position I was seeking. I decided to pull my locs into a tight bun to the back to sort of hide them. The job wasn't mine, but I do not believe it was because of my hair. My current position respects my hair, and I often receive compliments on the styles I rock. The admiration and respect I receive for my hair make me proud of my hair choices.
Being YouWhen it is all said and done, you need to wear your hair the way you feel most comfortable. Do not think that you need to change your natural hair in order to conform. It is a new day where millennials and generation Z folks are feeling free to express themselves in the manner that best suits them. Jump on the bandwagon and just be you!
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