Natural Hair & Professionalism- Black Enterprise speaks out

(Pic from Black Enterprise)

Thanks to one my loyal readers Arlene, I checked out this article called Natural Hair and Professionalism. An oxymoron? Is it possible to reach the C-suite without straight hair? on Black Enterprise’s website.

I have my opinions on this, however, I do not work in corporate America. I work in a field where I could have a tattoo on my face and it would be okay lol. But when I was at Clark Atlanta, I took a couple of business courses at Morehouse College. One of those classes was a required course Leadership and Professional Development. This class taught us to play the game and that you may NOT be able to walk in and be yourself. As you climb up the ladder , your hair and wardrobe can change to your style. I agree with this to some extent. EVERYONE knows you have to play the game in Corporate America….people just don’t know what game to play when they get in. You have to be well liked amongst your peers and employer- Corporate America is cut throat. Unfortunately in alot of people’s situations, hair is a big deal.

Now some came out of that class thinking, “I don’t have to conform”, but I somewhat disagree…You conform in other ways so your counterparts in corporate America like you. The thing is, businesses know that they can’t say anything about your hair legally, but they can make it hard for you. Not saying every business would have something to say, because most probably are okay with it. But maybe I am in denial when schools such as Hampton University make the guys cut their locs if they are in the business school…

Here is an excerpt written by Marcia Wade Talbert.:

“Are natural hair and locs unprofessional in corporate America? That was the subject broached by the friend of a friend on Facebook  recently. The young lady stated that she likes natural hairstyles, but because she works in an entry level position at a conservative investment bank, she doesn’t think it is “work appropriate,” and that it would be difficult to move up the corporate ladder with an “ethnic” hairstyle.

The statement made me wonder whether many women on Black Enterprise’s 75 Most Powerful Women in Business list wore their hair in natural or “ethnic” hairstyles. A cursory glance produced about five, includingUrsula Burns, CEO of Xerox and one of the most powerful women in business. I couldn’t think of any C-suite men who had locs or short afros. When I informed the young woman on Facebook what I found, she countered that those five women were at the top of their game, and that their hair may not have been “kinky” on the way up. Hmmm. She’s got a point.

I’m a believer in freedom of expression when it comes to appearance. I definitely do NOT believe that all Black people should wear their hair natural. But for those who choose to, the idea that you can’t succeed in business if you choose to leave your naturally curly hair, curly, really bothers me.

So, when I pitched the idea for an article about natural hair in the C-suite at a recent meeting, a few of my BLACK ENTERPRISE colleagues said that the way in which one wore their hair was an expression of fashion; something meant to change with the seasons and maturity. Others thought the issue had been played in the media too many times. And some just wondered why anyone would care about expressing their self through hair if they were unemployed and in desperate need of work.

Then there were those like me who asked the same question that actress Tracie Thoms did in Chris Rock’s movie Good Hair. Why is it that wearing one’s hair, the way God created it such a revolutionary idea? After debating our different perspectives for the next 10-15 minutes, we all realized this was truly a divisive issue worth covering.

Why is natural hair such a big deal? Here is some background for anyone who is completely clueless on the subject and a reminder for those who already know. There is a negative stigma attached to natural Black hair in the United States and frankly in most places of the world. The story starts way before the current natural hair craze that some people think is a fad, and before the 1970’s when afros became popular as a “political statement” for activists who wanted to revel in “Black beauty” but was then temporarily accepted by the rest of the Black community and White ones too.”

Check out the rest of the article HERE

Have you had issues with natural hair and professionalism? Please share your stories in the comment, or e-mail them to me so I can post 🙂 lexi@curlscoilsandkinks(dot)com

(Replace the “(dot)” with “.” )

Comments

curly comments!

  • Lawanda

    I had an experience with natural hair that im sure isnt unique to me. I had a position with a very large insurance company. When I began my employment i wore wigs. I was accepted without any problems but when i needed to stop wearing them due to the damage to my own hair things changed. I didnt want to relax my hair so i began wearing my hair in twist & braid outs. I had a great repore with other employees but management began to feel intimidated by me. It seemed as if the confidence i had to feel beautiful in my natural state and the way people flocked to me was overwhelming to them. I had one manager comment “wow ok you are really ethnic” and i replied “i know so are you”..needless to say our relationship became a bit strained…I think that having hair that doesnt fit the “standard” is just as challenging in the coroporate world as being fat,black or being a woman…I have chosen to be self employed but i wouldnt let society’s many prejudices to stop me from accomplishing anything i want…thanks for the post

  • Alex

    The whole concept of natural hair not being professional is idiotic at best, and frankly it should not even be discussed. This whole debate goes back to two words: Institutionalized Racism. That deserves an article.

  • LexiWithTheCurls

    Lawanda- I agree…its not just hair…its so many reasons that can hinder you from moving up in certain fields. And with self employment, you can do whatever you want to do.

    Alex–You may not want it to be discussed…but unfortunately, it is a real issue….So discussion or not, some people have to deal with this on a daily basis at their jobs. I wish it wasn’t an issue anymore, but it is