The Curly Hair Conundrum

Naturally curly hair is unique, voluminous and beautiful. At the same time, it is also expensive, tiresome and apparently frowned upon at the workplace.


The curly hair journey is long, possibly confusing and filled with hurdles starting from the cost of curly haired products to having insecurities about not fitting in. I myself went from having straight hair as a kid and then my hair eventually became curly (not sure about the how or why). Until high school, I didn’t know that I had curly hair and continued to brush out my hair and tried to (unsuccessfully) calm down the frizz. Eventually, I watched some YouTube videos, had an epiphany and figured out my hair type. Anyways, moving on to how this connects to the workplace.


Something I always dreaded was having to wear business or business casual attire. For some odd reason, I felt compelled to either brush my hair out and “tame it” into a braid or bun or I would unwittingly straighten my hair. (If you’ve never straightened your hair, it is a brutal arm workout lol). Little did I know that many other women with natural hair share the same concern!


As absurd as it sounds, it appears that curly hair stigma exists in the workplace and at school. In 2016, Tayjha Deleveaux, a high school student in the Bahamas was suspended for wearing her natural hair to school. Their principal actually had the audacity to justify her choice by saying the student’s hair looked “unkempt” and like it had not been brushed in a long time. The spread of this news on the Internet caused the hashtag #SupportThePuff to go viral.


I myself have gotten similar comments from family, friends and peers who have encouraged me to brush my hair out. What they don’t seem to understand is the fact that curly hair isn’t supposed to be brushed out frequently. Further, it is almost always best to leave people alone and respect their choices. :)


Did you know that women who wear their natural hair, especially Black women are subject to racism at the workplace?


A study published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal found in comparison to white women with curly or straight hair and Black women with straightened hair, Black women with natural hair were given significantly lower scores for professionalism. This prejudice reduces their chance of getting an interview callback compared to their contemporaries. Unfortunately, straightening one’s hair has been added to the list of women’s choices that are influenced by a judgmental society. :(


In addition to racism at the workplace, this notion is also detrimental to one’s self-esteem. The effects of conventional beauty standards are appalling. Imagine having gorgeous curly hair where each strand looks unique and thinking . This is the harsh reality of many young women, including myself who have taken years to embrace their naturally curly hair. A part of this can be attributed to the lack of representation in the media. I can only hope to see more BIPOC curly haired women on mainstream TV and film. This change would certainly help more young girls embrace their natural appearances and be more confident with their natural hair!


Here’s to a better future where BIPOC women can choose to style their hair the way THEY want without being deprived of career opportunities.


References


Allen, Maya. “The Messed-up Reason This Girl Got Suspended for Wearing Her Natural Hair.”

Cosmopolitan, Cosmopolitan, 19 Feb. 2016, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-

beauty/beauty/news/a53919/people-around-the-world-are-standing-up-for-natural-hair-

with-the-support-the-puff-movement/.

Allen, Maya. “22 Corporate Women Share What Wearing Their Natural Hair to Work Means.”

Byrdie, Byrdie, 24 Feb. 2020, https://www.byrdie.com/natural-hair-in-corporate-america.

Breslaw, Anna. “Is There a Stigma against Curly Hair?” Cosmopolitan, Cosmopolitan, 9 Oct. 2017,

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/news/a33862/curly-hair-stigma-workplace/.

Duke University. “Research Suggests Bias against Natural Hair Limits Job Opportunities for Black

Women.” Phys.org, SAGE Publications, 12 Aug. 2020, https://phys.org/news/2020-08-bias-

natural-hair-limits-job.html.

Guy, Jack. “Black Women with Natural Hairstyles Are Less Likely to Get Job Interviews.” CNN,

Cable News Network, 12 Aug. 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/12/business/black-

women-hairstyles-interview-scli-intl-scn/index.html.

Lepore, Meredith. “Does Having Curly Hair Hurt Your Career?” Business Insider, Business Insider,

31 July 2012, https://www.businessinsider.com/does-having-curly-hair-hurt-your-career-

2012-7.

McGregor, Jena. “More States Are Trying to Protect Black Employees Who Want to Wear Natural

Hairstyles at Work.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Sept. 2019,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/09/19/more-states-are-trying-protect-

black-employees-who-want-wear-natural-hairstyles-work/.



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