embracing black natural hair in the workplace

a journey of empowerment and self-expression

oct 25, 2023


by: sophia mafaje

“How can we make your hair more presentable”, a phrase that’s been constantly in my brain since the first time it was uttered to me at my first job. This made me feel that how my hair naturally grows out of my head is often seen as unprofessional, or unkempt. This being said has shaped how I present myself in the workplace, the thought of doing an event without a wig or braids or straight hair in some way shape or form makes me uncomfortable. This feeling isn’t just personal – it’s part of a bigger trend where cultural standards impact how people feel about their looks at work. Lots of women, especially those from diverse backgrounds, share this kind of experience. 

It’s like there’s this unwritten rule that certain hairstyles are more ‘professional’ or ‘appropriate’. In 2017, a study called the “Good Hair” Study found that many Black women feel like they have to change their hair to fit in at work. This can be straightening it or using chemicals to make it look different. So, the discomfort you’re feeling isn’t uncommon; it’s tied to these larger ideas about what’s considered ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’.

So how do we go about taking this back? How do we go about embracing our hair in all its natural glory? I don’t know if there’s an exact answer to these questions, personally I still think that I can’t attend a specific event, or go to the office if I don’t wear a wig, or have braids, or something to change the natural state of my hair. Through research and  communication I realized that I’ve been holding myself back, my natural hair is a part of who I am and by hiding it, I’ve been hiding a piece of myself. So, I’m deciding to take the step into my own skin, curls and all.

Sure, it’s a process. There are days when I still feel those old worries. But I’m learning that confidence comes from embracing what makes me unique. It’s not about stepping away from the imposter syndrome I feel when I have my natural hair out in a meeting or at an event. 

I’m starting small. Maybe it’s a twist-out one day, and a wash-and-go the next. Each time, it’s like I’m giving myself permission to be me. And you know what? The more I do it, the more I feel like I’m breaking free from those old constraints.

This is not to say that I’m not going to rock wigs, weaves and braids, they’re definitely going to be in my rotation. However, taking away the stigma of unprofessionalism in natural hair is the goal. 

So, here’s to the journey—to stepping into confidence and letting my natural hair shine. It’s not just about hair; it’s about embracing myself in all my glory. And I’m excited to see where this path takes me, one curl at a time.