Monday, April 15, 2013

Workplace Woes

Workplace Woes: Is Your Hair Corporate-Ready?

Growing up in the 70s in Detroit, I can vividly remember watching black women on the screen like Pam Grier. She was the epitome of what every young black girl wanted to be - strong, sexy, sassy, and beautiful and in step with her heritage. We all remember her classy Afro-centric looks, such as her signature afro.

But we all can’t be Pam Grier in the workplace. How you wear your hair at work has been the topic of heated debates, water cooler conversations and even lawsuits for many years. So how exactly do you maintain your employment and still dazzle with your own unique style?

Industry Acceptance

Most will say it depends on what line of work you are in. Jobs that allow for more expression and creativity may not hold steadfast to a workplace dress code when it comes to your hair. Teachers, social workers, actresses and other celebrities can usually wear their hair in any and all styles imaginable.

But what if you have dreams to become the next CEO of your company? Is your hairstyle in line with what’s considered to be “acceptable”? What are other black women wearing in the office?

These questions should always be taken into consideration, but the bottom line is knowing where your own comfort level and beliefs lie. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sporting an afro or braids to work, as long as it is in good taste and doesn’t overpower your overall look. You want people to notice the whole package – personality, skill, experience and work ethic, including your hair, and just your hair.

I Just Gotta Be Me

Then by all means, be yourself! If you feel most comfortable in a sew-in ponytail or some zillions – go for it. In the end, it’s really about being comfortable in your own skin. If you are in a company that wants more conservative looks, try a full-lace enclosure wig or pull your hair back during the work day and let loose after you clock out.

Just like you have certain outfits that you would never wear to work, there may certainly be certain hairstyles that can be dysfunctional in the workplace. Making a statement about your lovely hair is one thing, but making your hair “the” statement is another.

Weigh up your options and remember that most employers have the final say-so when it comes to dress codes. Always read the rules about personal grooming so that if you ever choose to go a little crazy with your hair or go “ethnic” you don’t run the risk of fighting for your job just because your hair is a little kinkier than others.

Ask yourself what kind of image is your company trying to convey to their customers? Do you fit in with that image? Are you the free-spirited woman who flaunts red and purple streaked hair or spikes to convey your own personal sense of style? Would you wear your hair that way to an interview?

As I part ways with you, I’d like to share some photos of some powerful Black women who have made it high up in the ranks and how they choose to wear their hair in the corporate workplace. From ethnic, to straightened or permed, these women are doing their thing and still looking fabulous at the same time!
Ursula Burns – CEO of Xerox

Susan Chapman – Senior Vice President of American Express,
Citigroup Realty

Gwendolyn L. Butler - President & COO of Capri Capital Partners L.L.C.

Wise Words: I pass this on to you ladies, some advice that was once given to me:
“Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.”

What are your thoughts? Should we be allowed to express ourselves freely in the workplace through our hair?

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