For women of color – and men as well – embracing natural hair styles in corporate America can have its trials and tribulations. Some even call it naïve to say that stereotyping doesn’t happen for naturalistas in the working world. A person’s overall personality, skills, and experience shouldn’t be overlooked because they have kinky or coily hair, but it does happen.
For men at the office, allowing their hair to do what it naturally does (such as, grow) can be a challenge. And for men of color, having their natural hair grown out into dreadlocks or even the neatest fro, is typically unacceptable. Men in corporate America are expected to keep their hair low and facial hair to a minimum, among other corporate policies. Granted, most men decide to cut their hair low to maintain their “professionalism”, anyway.
But as for the guys already sporting braids or locs, finding a company that overlooks those non-traditional styles may be difficult. These men are often isolated from other applicants, peers and co-workers based on their preference in hairstyle.
Women are also struggling with maintaining the balance of professional versus unprofessional when it comes their hair. Assuming that most women aim to have good decorum at work, how we decide to wear our hair should not be a problem. However, deciding whether or not to straighten your hair before an interview is something many naturals have experienced.
How do we compromise? By rocking protective styles and finding alternatives to having our hair worn natural. It’s unfortunate that some of us have to figure out how to downplay our natural hair in order to “fit in.” And one can only hope that corporate America will learn how to celebrate our hair’s diversity instead of making it a disadvantage.
Let’s face it: many companies still have a very Eurocentric view on what “corporate” culture should look like. Some have been brainwashed into thinking that the way you wear your natural hair is a reflection on your skills and ability to do the job. But for those willing to stretch the margin, wearing your natural hair in corporate America can easily remind employers what is most important in an employee: YOU. Not your hair.