Black Hair in the Workforce

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Since I’ve started working at my current job, I’ve been wearing wigs. Honestly, it was easier to wear wigs in the beginning because I was still getting accustomed to the 9-5 adult lifestyle. After I was adjusted it just seemed easier to wear a wig instead of doing my natural hair.

If we haven’t guessed, I am a black female. I have 4C hair, which essentially means I have tightly coiled hair. It’s very hard to see my curl pattern unless I define it in some way, ie. twist, braids, etc. The other thing about my hair is that I shaved it. Well, not ALL of it, but most of it. I shaved off the sides and the back of my hair. However, in May I decided I was going to grow it back. Point is, right now, my hair isn’t that long. Probably 3 or 4 inches around the sides and back. But it is long enough to catch, and do styles.

So recently, I decided to take the plunge and do my natural hair. My coworkers have been asking to see my natural hair for a while, but I wasn’t sure what I would do with it. Last weekend, I was supposed to go out with my partner (they canceled), and I wanted to do something different, a twist out, which means twist my hair in two strand twist, undo the twist and leave it out – kinda like a curly afro. However, because I was no longer going out and I didn’t want all my time and effort to go to waste. I wore the twist out to work.

I must say, I was extremely nervous. There is such a misconception in the workforce that black natural hair is unkempt or unprofessional. In reality, it takes black females a lot of time to do our hair. Personally, it took about two hours to wash, condition, twist, and un-twist my hair. Even with all that time and effort, and the added bonus that I was looking mighty fine, I was still worried that my boss or coworkers would think that I looked unprofessional. How fucked up is that? Even in 2018, I worry about if wearing my natural hair would affect the way that others see me. Lucky for me, I was welcomed with compliments and commendations. I felt accepted, which means my natural hair will be making more appearances at work.

The reality for a lot of black females is –  natural hair can be a liability to one’s job. Wearing black natural hair in the workforce can be seen as an act of defiance against the white-collar work industry. The hair that literally grows out of my hair is an act of resistance and boldness. In spite of that, this is not why I decided to wear my natural hair. I wore it because I wanted to get over my fear. I wanted to get over the unspoken rule “wigs, weaves and straight hair for the interview, and natural hair once you’re in the door.” I shouldn’t feel obligated to change my hairstyle for the fear that my qualifications will be overlooked by my afro. I am remorseful and ashamed to know that I have done it in the past. Changed the way I looked – not for fun or because I can – but because I really wanted a job.

As the years go by, says the twenty-three-year-old, I want to present my truth. I want to be the truest form of myself. It seems as if accepting my natural hair in all of its glory is the first step of many steps.

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