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Natural-Haired Job Applicants at a Disadvantage - New Study Shows

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A new study conducted by Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, a management professor and a senior associate dean who conducted the research at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, has been released with not-so-shocking findings: Black women with natural afro hair are less likely to be offered job interviews. This study detected bias against Black women with natural hair by recruiting participants of different races and asked them to assume roles of recruiters screening job candidates.

Most of us with natural afro hair have experienced some form of unwanted attention in the workplace due to our hair and have experienced outright discrimination, pass-overs for promotions, suggestions to "change" our hair or "tidy" it up. Our workplace natural hair has been called unsuitable, unprofessional, immature and worse. We have been forced to wear wigs, extensions and perform any and all forms of coverups in the office to conform to the beauty standards set by people who don't look like us and even those who do.


"New research suggests Black women with natural hairstyles, such as curly afros, braids or twists, are often perceived as less professional than Black women with straightened hair, particularly in industries where norms dictate a more conservative appearance."


"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 and white women with curly or straight hair, the researchers found."

The study involved using photos of women of different ethnicities, with hair textures from straight to afro accompanying their job applications. They found Black candidates with natural afro hair who were applying for positions in more conservative industries such as consulting, were subjected to adverse discrimination and seen as less professional than their straight-haired counterparts.

Even when the SAME woman was rated her differently when she wore her hair in a natural styles versus straight. She was given higher scores when she wore her hair in a straightened style. 

Interestingly, for those applying for positions in more artistic and less conservative industries, the study found that hairstyles/hairtype was not a factor in determining their level of professionalism or suitability for the job.

Time and time again, these studies confirm what we always suspected: that although we have come a long way towards accepting ourselves wearing our natural hair, we still have a lot of work to do to bring our workplaces along with us in the acceptance of natural afro-textured hair.

We still have a long way to go.

You can read the study's introductory article directly from Duke University's website here:

https://www.fuqua.duke.edu/duke-fuqua-insights/ashleigh-rosette-research-suggests-bias-against-natural-hair-limits-job

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