Back in March, the Huffington post did an article surrounding the topic that black women worry that their natural hair might be affecting job retention and job employment.
They made reference to a panel discussion that took place at Georgia State University entitled “Black Women, Their Hair & The Work Place” and one statement made by a student at GSU read something like this:
You’re talking about being polished and (having) interview skills and yet no one is addressing the fact that natural black hair has been traditionally seen as not polished on its own whether it’s well cared for or not. So basically it’s all about maintaining the Eurocentric standpoint.In an article written and published on BGLH by Domineque Michelle otherwise known as LonghairdontcareLLC on youtube, she shared her own experience at work where her boss told her she ‘had to wear her hair organised’.
I could go on and on with the examples because like many of us with natural hair, at one time or another we are all faced with the ‘should I wear a bun all day everyday so I don’t scare em, or can I roll with my signature puff?’ This is a hard topic with many opinions, on both ends of the scale.
Women with natural hair want to wear there hair how it naturally grows out of their head, on another end of the scale, how our hair grows especially if worn in an afro type style is seen as ‘political’ or unprofessional by some people.
Further to that there are other situations where your natural hair could actually interfere with your work. For instance, if you work in an environment where your hair has to be covered like food preparation industries or operating rooms, it’s just not reasonable to expect to wear your hair ‘out and free’.
Among the opinions here are some best practices we can adopt in order to remain professional within our various places of employment while being true to our natural roots.
Practical Styles – Avoid Distractions From Your Job
The point of employment, is the work that you are hired to do, it really isn’t about buns and afro puffs. Sometimes we can get caught up with texture of our hair but really the issue is how the hair is styled.
Style your hair in a manner that is not distracting to you or the people around you. Define distracting? Distracting is, hair in your eyes where you are unable to make eye contact with someone that is interviewing you or the people you are addressing as you make a presentation in a meeting.
If you have to constantly move your hair from your face, or play with it in any manner, then your hair is probably a distraction.When your hair is shorter you may be able to get away with a neat puff pulled away from your face but as your hair gets longer, well, you have to admit that as naturals, we have A LOT of hair and a puff will probably come across as wild regardless of how tame the front looks.
An easy go to style, would be a neat bun, or an updo that pulls the hair back out of the face or even pinning your hair behind your ears.
Avoid Potentially Political Hairstyles Such As Afro’s
This one is a doozy and there might be potential swearing and side eyeing because what some of you consider ‘political’ others on the other hand might consider normal. Here’s the thing, get your paper and save the speech for another setting that is more appropriate.
This is as hard a pill to swallow as it is to write, because we don’t want what we know to be beautiful and special to be seen as political and negative. Lets face it, there is a lot of history behind certain styles specifically an Afro, some of it positive and some negative.
If you were Caucasian and had long flowing hair down to your butt, a head band and a long floral skirt its highly unlikely that your client who is a senior engineer will take you seriously at your quarterly clients meeting.
You cannot fight the good fight alone, and if you choose to, there is a slim chance you might win but a bigger chance you may lose and lose way more than its worth. Choose a hairstyle that will not start a political or negative conversation, even when you feel different.
Style Your Hair According To Your Schedule
This just means, know what days to make sure your hair is polished versus the days when you can take it easy and wear something relatively fun. For example, if its Monday morning and you are the manager about to begin your monthly one on one meetings with your employees you might want to choose a style that is sleek polished and shows focus. There is a reason why buns are seen as sombre, they were probably invented for Monday mornings!
The idea is to set the tone of the meeting and your appearance plays just as an important role as the conference room you choose to have the meeting in. Additionally a loose twist-out might be more appropriate for ‘Jeans day Friday’ or a casual lunch meeting with a long time client. You would be surprised at how the smallest of details derails intent because as humans we are affected by so many things, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Do Not Make A Big Deal Over Your Hair
Simply, if you don’t make a big deal they wont make a big deal. Sometimes we are so proud of our natural hair we tend to go in hard with trying to communicate our feelings to everyone, and since we are almost always at work, that might mean managers, clients even the cleaning crew.
So what your wash and go gave you life that morning, smile about it to yourself and keep it moving. If someone says something or directly asks you about it, feel free to indulge in a little hair talk. If by any chance someone chooses to have a cynical conversation with you about your hair or tries to bait you in anyway, the best practice is to politely and quickly shut it down and move on.
The idea here is, if you want people to accept that ‘its just hair’ then act like ‘its just hair’.
Accessories is anything from, really huge flowers clips that dangle and make annoying clicking sounds to spray bottles. Again this is all about distraction. In a relatively quiet office no one should ‘hear’ you hair or be unable to concentrate on an important conversation because they cant get past that bright yellow dandelion is that’s practically covering your left ear.
This brings us to spray bottles, early in the game most of us carried a spray bottle for touch ups in case our hair got dry within the hour.
If you are at a staff meeting and all you can think about is getting out of there so you can get your spray on then, your spray bottle is a distraction.If you are constantly bending over at your desk to spray, and moisturize, whether you want to admit it or not, your hair is a distraction and it will get noticed.
Avoid Coming To Work With Your Hair Wet
If you have to wake up an hour earlier, then that’s just what you have to do, because wet hair with little white speckles of conditioner or Miss Carol’s Kink It Up Pudding is extremely unprofessional and quite messy.
Nobody wants paperwork slathered in watery conditioner. Get a diffuser, and if you want to avoid heat try styling your hair the night before so that it isn’t sopping wet when you get to work.
So do you agree, disagree? Let me know in the comments.
About Emily CottonTop
Hi I'm Emily Cotton Top, a staff writer for BlackHairInformation.com. Born and raised in St. Andrew Jamaica, I first moved to the United States in the year 2000 in order to find a job after college. I spent one year living in New York before moving to Texas in 2001. I went natural in 2008 after a bad perm experience and have enjoyed my hair ever since. I am still learning and I like sharing my experiences with my cottontop :)