The purpose of this study is to understand the boundaries of professional
presentation and if/where Women of Color's hairstyles/texture lie on that
spectrum. The definition of beauty has long been debated within the African American community. "Should I relax my hair to make it look presentable? Or should I get a weave?" African American women have neglected to even consider their natural hair as something presentable because the ideal beauty has been embedded in features relating to Caucasian women. Now that we are finally becoming receptive of our hair and our own beauty, is that enough to change the perspective of others?
Many African American students, as well as myself, who are adamant about not straightening their hair are concerned of the perception by employers. With the job market becoming more competitive than ever, having the credentials to do the job is not nearly enough. The way we present ourselves must adhere to the boundaries of professionalism and sophistication.
Diversity Inc., an online magazine that provides upcoming news and discussions on the role of strengthening diversity, discusses how psychologically "people are bound to trust people who most look like them." In retrospect to employers and African American women, that includes hiring people who are of lighter skin tone with straightened hair (assuming that the employer is Caucasian). Is this a platform employers use regularly?
Women's of Color hair has often placed women in chategories throughout history. Throughout the centuries of slavery, African American hair was symbolic of their status. Folk wisodom suggests that if their hair was straight or of a Europeanized-soft texture, they usually worked as maids; if their texture was course and tightly coiled, they were placed in the field. Patton states in her article "Hey Girl, Am I more than my hair?" in the contexts of straight hair that "adopting many white European traits was essental to survival, e.g., free vs. slave, employed vs. unemployed, educated vs. uneducated, upper class vs. poor." In relation to Diversity Inc., if employers are looking for employees who emulate their features, do coarse textures then display an image of unqualified and uneducated? My research will relate to modern-day employment and hair style presentation.
1.What is the current ideal "look" of professionalism?
2. Is natural hair currently considered unprofessional?
3. Have Women of Color been overlooked for employment because of their
My research will consist of looking at legal cases where natural hair has been descriminated against in the workplace. I will look at legal cases in chronological order, study their reasoning, and take note as to whether standards have changed. Alongside looking at legal cases, I will focus alot of my time on the history of natural hair. It is important to take note of the foundation of which it started, in order to decipher whether it is still prevalent.
I am a John Jay College Sophomore with the hopes of becoming a successsful lawyer. With the aspirations of pursuing a "mans profession," I would like to be well prepared for the challenges to come from sexism or racism. Currently, as an undergraduate student, I am concerned with interviews for internships or fellowships that I would like to experience with before going to Law School.
About a year ago, I started my natural hair journey, undergoing 2 "big chops" (cutting off all the damaged ends, or completely bald). I am very adamant about not straightening my hair or even applying heat to it. For my interviews, I'd like to be as professional as possible, but I cannot help but be concerned about my natural hair and its presentation. I had an interview with the Office of Inspector's General in March, and I felt like the first thing my interviewer took note of was my natural hair. As she focused her attention to my hair for .5 seconds, then glared down at me with a friendly smile, I started to wonder "What does she think about my hair?"
I hope, that upon my research, I am presented with movements and changes that
will conflict the views of prior beauty "professional" platforms. I see
myself thinking about this research everytime I get ready for my interviews to come or any professional event that I am expected to appear for. It will be a huge comfort for me to not feel as if I have something to be paranoid about just for being myself. This project fits perfectly in my academic and career goals because in some way, I want to make a difference within the African American Community as a Lawyer. As an undergraduate student, investigating possible descrimination based on beauty and hair texture is a pretty good start in my view.
Patterson T.O (2006) Hey girl, am I more than my hair? African american women and their struggles with beauty, body image, and hair. NWSA Journal. 18. 2. 24-51
Ask the White Guy (2009) Ask The White Guy: Do blacks need to relax their hair to get promoted? <www.diversityinc.com>