For our first #workitwednesday, where we discuss hair and the workplace, we chose to share an article that was featured online at USA Today earlier this month. Read it. Share your thoughts.

Viewpoint: How is natural, African-American hair viewed in the workplace?

The natural hair movement is becoming widely popular, especially with African-American females. The idea is to stray away from the process of chemically straightening one’s hair and to embrace the natural texture instead. It can range anywhere from straight, wavy and curly to “kinky curly” or “coily” (afro-like texture or very tight curls).

While this movement is all about achieving healthier hair and self-acceptance, employers don’t always feel the same way. Some employers and schools have banned the act of wearing hair in its natural texture, saying that it looks unkempt and unprofessional.

Dana Harrell, an education and sociology major at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., was told during an internship interview that if she wanted to move forward, she would have to straighten her hair.

“The lady told me that (if) I wanted to work for her company, I couldn’t wear my hair in its natural state,” Harrell said. “Not even braids. She said ‘nappy isn’t happy here.’”

The Lorain Horizon Science Academy in Ohio released a letter to students’ parents about its new dress code, where natural hair styles such as afro puffs and small twist braids were banned. After parent complaints, the school retracted the statement and apologized for creating bias against students.

In 2001, a leadership course at Hampton University banned natural hair styles such as dreadlocks and cornrows, with the belief that those types of hairstyles would prevent students from receiving corporate jobs.

And during a 2007 “Do’s and Don’ts of Corporate Fashion” slideshow, an unidentified editor ofGlamour magazine stated that dreadlocks were “truly dreadful,” and that she found it shocking that people thought it was still appropriate to wear these hairstyles, according to Jezebel. She went on to say that these “political hairstyles” clearly have to go.

The editor was suspended from her position and later resigned.

But what is so unnatural, unclean, unprofessional, dreadful and inappropriate about wearing hair in the texture in which it grows out of your scalp?

Banning natural hair or denying someone work because of natural or ethnic hairstyles such as afros or dreadlocks could be considered discrimination. These types of hairstyles highlight the natural texture of hair in a large group of people, namely African Americans.

Rysheeda Goosby, a sales coordinator for Time Warner Cable Media, says some people are not yet used to African Americans embracing natural hair and they just need to be more enlightened about the hair choice.

“When I walk into the office with my natural hair, I get hit with the ‘um, that’s different’ face,” she says. “You have to be strong in yourself and open to explaining natural hair to other people.”

Megan Vickers, a department manager for H&M, says her hair does not affect her ability to work.

“I’ve had straightened hair, short hair, weaves, been bald, went from a mini afro to braids,” Vickers says. “The mere thought of being denied a position because my hair is in its natural state disturbs me.”

Sharie Harvin, a general assignment editor and fill-in Anchor for KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, is one of the many women who wear natural hair in the workplace.

“I had a serious complex about natural hair in corporate America,” Harvin says. “Before the big chop (of her chemically processed hair), I remember telling other women how unacceptable it was. Then I moved to Las Vegas, an arid climate with hard water and harsher sun. I had no choice but to let my curls be free.”

Harvin went on to say that Nevada is extremely diverse, and she’s had a tremendous response to her natural hair.

People who wear their natural hair texture are in agreement that if their hair is neat and not distracting, it should not be a problem, and that choosing to wear natural hair does not affect their work skills or ethic.

Claflin student Bria Howard says there are natural hairstyles appropriate for the office, and that the hair type as a whole should not be seen as unprofessional.

“The hair isn’t the problem,” Howard says. “It’s the perception of it, and that’s what has to change.”

Words By India Hill –@theREDDbandit on Twitter

Her work can also be viewed http://www.reddlipstickblog.com

*If you want to share your personal stories, styles, and photos about the workplace to be featured on the Hair Rules blog, send email them to david@hairrules.com*

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