Recently, Tierra shared her story of natural hair scrutiny in the workplace. It sparked a healthy dialogue concerning a very touchy subject for many of us. As women rocking our natural texture, it’s important for us to feel comfortable in our own skin (and hair). But as we work in the corporate world, we often have to find the balance between self-acceptance and socially acceptable hair in the workplace.
Her story resonated with me because I have personally experienced these issues in the workplace. A co-worker , who rarely acknowledged my presence, felt the need to stop me in the hallway to say, “I like your hair like that.” After a short pause he said, “Your hair looks professional like that.” As you probably guessed, my hair was straightened that day. And the question I asked in my head was, “Professional, compared to what?” Which sparks yet another question… Where do we draw the line between corporate guidelines and discrimination? Here are some things to consider:
Gauge Your Work Environment
In 2014, you would hope that every workplace would be accepting of natural hair, but unfortunately that is not case. Much like corporate dress, it’s important to err on the side of caution when entering a new work environment. And this begins at the interview…
Unless you work in fashion or an artistic field, you should stick to a simple blue or black suit. Similarly, your hair should be simple as well. (You don’t want to distract from your skills.) No, you do NOT need to straighten your hair.
Instead, you should stick to a simple bun or even an “understated” twist-out. And by “understated” twist out, I mean first or second day hair. Until you have gauged the limits of your work environment, “big hair’ should be limited to weekends. In my old position, if my hair swelled on humid days, my hair was the topic of discussion.
Now, in my more “liberal” work environment where my co-workers often wear jeans, no one even flinches if my hair is “big”. Take the time to gauge your new work environment. If it doesn’t seem welcoming, don’t even accept the offer.
Take Care of Your Hair
This is a touchy point, but it’s important to note that natural hair is not equivalent to unkempt hair. Although some may believe that all natural hair is unkempt, we can all agree that certain attributes describe “kept”hair.
If there is lint or knots hanging from your strands and you’ve forgotten your last wash, then it may be time to re-evaluate your hair care regimen. [And I say that half-jokingly.]
Similarly, during the work week is not the best time to try new styles. And if a style goes wrong, you should be ready with a back up plan.
Know the Difference between Corporate Guidelines and Discrimination
Although a company can enumerate dress code requirements, they teeter totter on the lines of discrimination when they ask someone to alter his/her natural hair texture. There is a major difference between hair texture and hairstyle.
If you think you are being discriminated against, get acquainted with your company handbook and contact Human Resources.
In more recent cases example, the Army’s suggested restrictions are not new and necessary for the safety of the job. These regulation toss individuality out the window and it has always been that ways. You can read more about that here. You must understand what you’re signing up for when accepting any job and signing their dress code and code of conduct statutes.