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To Straighten Or Not To Straighten: The Difficult Decision That Black Women Face When It Comes To Their Hair

A new study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science has discovered a linkage between chemical hair straightening merchandise and uterine most cancers. The research examined knowledge from over 30,000 girls between the ages of 35-74 and adopted them over the course of 11 years. Uterine most cancers charges have been rising throughout the United States, with Black women being most in danger. Many Black girls might have resorted to chemical hair straighteners with a view to adhere to the Eurocentric magnificence requirements which might be pervasive throughout the workplace, society, and Hollywood. Despite how common Afro-textured hair discrimination is, there may be nonetheless a lack of knowledge concerning how this challenge impacts Black girls.

In many workplaces, Black folks have skilled hair bias and discrimination from carrying their hair within the ways in which it naturally grows out of their head. In order to be employed and promoted inside a office, many Black girls have made the choice to chemically straighten their hair. A 2020 research study inspecting pure hair within the job recruitment course of discovered that Black girls who made the choice to put on their hair in pure hairstyles had been “perceived to be less professional, less competent and less likely to be recommended for a job interview” in comparison with Black girls with straightened hair or white girls with curly or straight hair. DEI Consultant and medical psychologist Donna Dockery, Ph.D. shared that she would put on particular kinds when interviewing for jobs. “I use to interview and start a job with my hair in a style that I thought would be the most acceptable [such as] straightened or slicked back in a bun. I’ve always worked in primarily white spaces and felt as if I needed to play the part, to make sure my appearance wasn’t a distraction. In past jobs I have literally heard a supervisor talk about another Black employee not looking or dressing like she belongs in the office mostly because of how she styled her hair.”

Hair bias additionally reveals up when it comes time for development and promotion. The CEO of the Equity Equation, Sacha Thompson, mirrored on how pure hairstyles prevented her from ascending in firm she beforehand labored at. “It didn’t take long for me to notice that our company CEO would barely look in my direction when I had a natural style, like a wash-and-go…but when my hair was in braids or straightened, he’d come by and chat it up, asking about my weekend and brainstorming ideas. At the time, my direct chain of command to him was all Black women, so I knew it wasn’t because of my race…I asked one of our VPs if she also noticed the behavior. Her response was one that I didn’t expect. She said that if I wanted to move up in the organization, I needed to be in good graces with the CEO, which may require sacrificing my desire for natural hair.”

Representation is significant; Black leaders rocking pure hairstyles will affect the subsequent technology and sends the message that, opposite to fashionable perception, Black hair is skilled hair. Janelle Benjamin, founding father of variety and inclusion consultancy All Things Equitable Inc., shared that the absence of leaders with pure hair left her feeling nervous about carrying her hair in its pure state. “I internalized the message that to be seen as a leader, my hair had to be straight, relaxed, pulled back, and not ‘unruly’ or ‘wild’ or the way it grows out of my head. Only now, that I work for myself, have I begun to grow locks.”

The pandemic supplied a much-needed alternative for a lot of Black girls to reimagine their relationship with their hair. Niani Tolbert, founder and CEO of Hire Black Now, shared her expertise. “During the pandemic, I was able to slow down and reconnect with my hair. It felt freeing to not feel any pressure to manipulate my hair for work…through this journey, I discovered that the many years of ponytails left permanent scarring. I now have CCCA alopecia, and my regimen includes adding topical clobetasol and minoxidil twice daily and monthly steroid injections by my dermatologist. If I don’t keep this regimen up, I face permanent hair loss.” Given the deleterious impacts of chemical straighteners, it’s essential that society continues to push again in opposition to white requirements of professionalism and wonder, which proceed to hurt non-white girls. Although there are at the moment some state-wide protections across the United States in opposition to race-based hair discrimination, it continues in pervasive and insidious methods.

To quote TikTook influencer the Conscious Lee, “education is elevation.” It’s crucial that we proceed to disseminate details about the dangerous results of chemical hair straightening brokers. It can also be important that office management and human useful resource professionals are educated to acknowledge and mitigate hair discrimination. Provide staff with programming to teach them about hair bias. Oprah Winfrey’s new docuseries, “The Hair Tales,” gives distinctive insights concerning the experiences of Black girls and analyzes “beauty and identity through the distinctive lens of Black hair.” Providing staff with the power and entry to observe packages resembling it is a nice method to improve their data, consciousness and understanding. Lastly, making certain that office practices are as goal as potential can mitigate bias and discrimination.

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