Are You Afraid to Wear Your Natural Hair in the Workplace?
The debate of whether or not natural hair is fit for the workplace is alive and well. While many naturalistas are not afraid to rock their locks and remain full of determination to wear their kinky hair inside and outside of the workplace, there is a segment of women who hide their natural hair beneath wigs and weaves so that they can fit the image of what some professionals deem as being acceptable.
Who can blame them? The natural hair movement seems to evoke a discriminatory response in some professionals, including those from the same ethnic background as those who choose not to wear their hair in it's natural state. While the texture of your hair should never be a detractor of how intelligent you are or what an asset you are to an organization, the fact remains that many women feel that they have no other choice than to hide their natural hair beneath more acceptable wigs and weaves.
Rather than ridiculing naturalistas for embracing their natural hair and blocking their successes, women and men should be rallying for acceptance. Discrimination against the texture of one’s hair should not be any more acceptable than discrimination against the color of one’s skin or the natural color of their eyes.
How do we remove the fear of being natural?
First, you must learn to love your natural hair yourself. Once you gain the confidence to rock your afro textured hair that is half the battle. If you don't feel comfortable in your own skin then it will make the people around you uncomfortable. You can start by wearing a braided or twisted style or a short natural hair cut that you love and that is flattering to your face shape. Then you can transition to wearing twist-outs and afro styles that are clean and shaped up. You can also revamp your personal style to match your new look by adding bold accessories or by wearing bright colors and fun yet professional african tribal prints to complete your look. This will help you feel fabulous and more glamorous with your natural hair; because when you look good your feel good.
Don't make a big deal out of it. Yes, you might get complements and love of the freedom of wearing your natural hair, which could give you a big confident boost or you could get some off-putting comments, that might break your spirits. With all of the attention you might get just remember it's a hair style and, yes, there is an entire phycological history to our natural hair, but on the surface it's just as simple as a change in hairstyle. Don't go fishing for complements or looking for approval from your co-workers. You don't have to explain your natural hair choices to anyone, share your natural hair journey or educate the world on your culture, just live how you want to live and be the woman you were created to be.
Business as usual. As long as you are doing your work and doing it well there shouldn't be any cause for complaints. In some cases, you will need to redefine what "professional" is because of the stigma around afro hair styles; continue to dress to impress, maintain a good work ethic and show the people in your workplace that your natural afro hair texture is just as professional as you are. Don't let the change of hairstyle or maybe even the awkward stares and offensive comments consume your thoughts, simply focus on your daily tasks and get the job done.
Those with hiring power can change the narrative by hiring talent no matter their hair texture. For women who are already ensconced in the workplace who are teetering on the edge of whether or not to reveal your natural hair to coworkers and employers, you must become familiar with your rights and know the law or find someone else who can assist you in your efforts. It is not a crime to embrace your culture.