Natural Hair: Black Women in the Workplace


Artist: Mikayla J. Henderson

Mikayla Henderson, Staff Writer

The African American community is full of diversity with different looks, styles, and taste. These differences also include hair types. Hair types range from 2A to 4C. Looser and more free falling curls are considered 2A while thicker and more coarse hair is 4C. Hair has been a big discussion in the professional environment for African Americans; more specifically women. There is a constant battle of how to wear natural hair to interviews and the workplace. Often, questions arise like ¨Should I straighten my hair?¨ and ¨Does my hair look too messy?¨ Traditionally, natural hair is considered untamed and unprofessional. Sometimes there are even consequences for wearing natural hair in a work environment.

In a 2018 article from the New York Times, it was reported that a middle school student was sent home because of how she wore her hair. At the time, she had her hair styled in box braids which is a protective hairstyle worn to retain the health of natural hair. According to a lawyer from the case, ¨administrators said her braided hair extensions violated school rules.¨ Rules were set in place to directly discriminate against one group of people. Not only shown in this case, but Eleanor Roosevelt High School students have also been affected by similar issues. Alisha Hussain, an 11th grader at ERHS, explained a negative experience that happened at her job because of how she styles her natural hair. ¨I´ve experienced discrimination from both customers and coworkers because the way I wear my hair,¨ she explains, ¨my coworkers have insulted me a few times because they don’t understand how my hair works.¨ An ERHS student who classifies her hair as being a 3C texture, Gabrielle Stewart, defies the odds by continuously wearing and styling her natural hair however she feels; no matter the environment. She explained how she grew up in a ¨pro-black environment so [she didn´t] feel the need to straighten [her hair] to appear more professional.¨ In an interview she added, ¨I love my hair¨ and later added how she likes her hair braided before events in professional settings. 

In my case, I remember always wanting my hair straightened for big events, whether it was the first day of school, picture day, or meeting with important people. I did not used to think that my 3B/3C curls were professional and was insecure about them. As I got older I realized that I should be comfortable with my natural hair in any setting and professional environments should support the same idea. Black women being discriminated against because of their hair texture and styling is not a new concept. These issues constantly present themselves but now more people, including ERHS students, are speaking up on the issue and not falling into societal norms.