Essence Debates: Natural Hair in the Workplace

Please Check Out Our Managing Partner Angela Reddock in her feature in the January 2014 Issue of Essence Magazine. Join in a Twitter discussion on Monday, December 16, 2013 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. EST – we would love your feedback

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The Attorney

I’m not against natural hair. I am, however, often in settings with folks who may not understand all the nuances of Black women. I find myself making decisions based on those interactions. A Black woman’s hair choice can limit her mobility, depending on how progressive

her work environment may be. Is it right? Of course not. Does that feeling still exist? For sure. You develop a sense of what makes people feel more comfortable in corporate America. The reason many of us straighten our hair is

to take hair out of the equation. Folks in the boardroom can actually hear what we’re saying instead of being distracted by our hair. Yes, we’ve come a long way. Some- one like the CEO Ursula Burns, who wears hers natural, is certainly a pioneer. But there are not that many Ursula Burnses at the top of the business world.

When I first started practicing law in the 1990’s, I bought a suit, got my hair permed and added in a weave for a conven- tional look. When you get to corporate America, you most likely will choose to go with what may be considered main- stream, and let’s face it, straight hair is just nonthreatening.

We’ve all bought into the notion that there’s one way to look in order to be taken seriously and as someone your employers will want to introduce to clients. The biases are there about our vernacular and how we present ourselves.

I have lots of cousins, nieces and goddaughters. And I’d like to think I could tell them and Tiana, “Just do what’s right for you.” But the reality is, if you’re going out for your first job interview in a conservative environment, you must think about how you’re going to wear your hair. If you want to wear it natural and you’re superconfident

in that and in your ability to do the job, then go ahead. Just know that some people might automatically make a decision about who you are based on that.

Angela Reddock is the managing partner of the reddock Law Group, an employment and labor law firm in Los angeles.

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