Black Women With Natural Hairstyles Less Likely To Get Job Interviews

Well ladies, looks like our time has come and no more questions shall be asked on how we choose to wear our hair. 

(HuffingtonPost) Black women with natural hairstyles, such as Afros, braids or twists, are often perceived as less professional than Black women with straightened hair, a new study has revealed. The research, conducted at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, offers evidence that discrimination against natural Black hairstyles is prevalent in the workplace and perpetuates race discrimination.

Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, a management professor and a senior associate dean at the university, said, “The impact of a woman’s hairstyle may seem minute, but for Black women, it’s a serious consideration and may contribute to the lack of representation for Blacks in some organizational settings.

“In the aftermath of the George Floyd murder and the corresponding protests, many organizations have rightly focused on tactics to help eradicate racism at systemic and structural levels. But our individually held biases often precede the type of racist practices that become embedded and normalized within organizations.”

To detect bias against Black women with natural hair, the researchers recruited participants of different races and asked them to assume the role of recruiters screening job candidates. Participants were given profiles of Black and white female job candidates and asked to rate them on professionalism, competence and other factors.

Black women with natural hairstyles received lower scores on professionalism and competence and were not recommended as frequently for interviews compared with three other types of candidates: Black women with straightened hair, white women with curly hair and white women with straight hair, the researchers found.

“In many Western societies, whites have historically been the dominant social group, and, as a result, the standard for professional appearance is often based on the physical appearance of whites. For women’s hair, that benchmark is having straightened hair,” said Rosette, who collaborated on this study with Christy Zhou Koval, a Fuqua alumna and assistant professor at Michigan State University.

Some straightening processes can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars and can cause hair breakage, scalp disease and other health complications, Rosette noted.

“When a Black woman chooses to straighten her hair, it should be a personal preference, not a burden to conform to a set of criteria for which there could be adverse consequences,” she said.

For example, hair relaxers can be corrosive. The active ingredient in many of these products is sodium hydroxide (known as lye), which is also the active ingredient in drain cleaner. Though no-lye relaxers contain a modified version of lye, they can be just as damaging. And a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports that the use of hair relaxers may increase the risk of uterine fibroids.

In one of the study’s experiments, two groups of participants evaluated the same job candidate, who was a Black woman. One group saw a photo of the candidate with natural hair while the other group saw her with straight hair. The group that saw a candidate with straight hair rated her as more professional ― defined as more polished, refined and respectable ― and they more strongly recommended her for an interview.

The fictional job candidates with natural hair were subject to discrimination when they were being evaluated for jobs in consulting, an industry with conservative dress norms. However, when participants considered profiles of women who wanted to work at an ad agency, the candidate’s hair texture didn’t affect perceptions of professionalism or whether they were recommended for interviews. This may be because advertising is viewed as a more creative industry with less rigid dress norms, the authors posted.

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