What do diversity, inclusion, hair, and business results have to do with each other. Conflicts or disputes may arise from one of a number of issues. To avoid conflicts or disputes takes an active effort to promote communication and collaboration. When you think of diversity you likely think about the primary level of what you can see, and you think about areas such as race, age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, sexual orientation, and class. As a secondary level below the human surface, you may think of elements of religious beliefs, nationality, geographic location, marital status, parental status, education, income, work background, and military experience may come to mind. Finally at a third level elements of learning style, personality, or professional orientation may come to mind. All of these are relevant related to diversity, but in today’s commentary the focus is on the primary level with a focus on hair and what you can see.
Hair and workplace discrimination
Recently an article was brought to my attention entitled, Everything you need to know about workplace hair discrimination. Having read the article here are a few statistics from this article about how Black Women and Blacks in general feel about hair at work.
- Black women say that they are 80% more likely to change their natural hair to live up to social expectations or norms in the workplace.
- 44.3% of women report being discriminated against because of their hairstyles.
- 46.5% of women have been informed that their hairstyles were not professional.
- 52.3% indicate that they feel as if they are under pressure to wear a different hairstyle when they are at work.
On a personal level, and as a white male I am aware of different perspectives relative to hair, but I must confess I have not given this much thought. Over the course of my life time, I have seen length, color, and type of hair style across a wide spectrum.
To me it seems to be an individual choice.
I do not have to think about having to change my natural hair to live up to others social expectations. As a younger person at one point in my life I had much longer hair. Today I simply prefer short hair and how it lays is the way it lays. It does not take much thought personally for my hair. As I offer this commentary as an white older male, I have given more thought to this issue having read this article and I am disappointed that in 2022 our society has to address the bullet points raised above, but these do need to be addressed.
In the article it was stated ”that great strides have been made in the United States to outlaw hair discrimination, several studies have found it is still legal to discriminate against an individual based on hair.” Some states have passed the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), but to date this only includes 14 states. As I am becoming educated with this article, I simply have to ask why only 14 states and why isn’t this a national issue. Really, hair an issue in 2022?
Why is hair an issue?
Employers can adopt measures like head coverings, hairnets, hair ties, or other safety equipment that can accommodate different hairstyles and textures, so what is that makes hair styles that may appear to be unconventional from historical white society norms negative?
Might this be a form of racial discrimination because the hair style is different?
The next time you see someone with a hair style that may be different from what you think of as the norm, ask yourself how does that make me feel? Why do I feel that way? What bias may I have as a result of seeing hair that looks different from my earlier life experiences?
It is important to recognize a bias, and then to explore why you feel that way about any bias. This is how you can grow as a person. Consider the factors that have influenced your thought process. Reflect on what has impacted your thought processes. Take it a step further and be curious.
Have an attitude to grow as a person and to learn more about what you have seen.
Think about why what you saw made you uncomfortable. Take a major step and embrace the opposite perspective.
Personally, I found growing up that my friends with curly hair tended to wish they had straight hair and my friends with straight hair tended wish they had curly hair. Personally, I was a simple guy, so I just appreciated whatever hair I had. As I am older with less hair and thinning hair, I do appreciate whatever hair I have. LOL
Reach out and seek multiple perspectives.
The length, color, type, braid, twists, locks, cornrows, afros, Bantu knots, or fades are simply personal choices. Can we simply accept others for the way they want to and can wear their hair? Does it even matter today to make hair into an issue?
Here is a short one minute video from the article that points out from the age of five it is possible to have hair based discrimination. Why is this even an issue?
In the blog Effective collaboration is a lot more than communication it was found that best practices firms focus on outcomes and allows the processes to flow and be flexible.
Firms that focus on innovation, hiring with diversity in mind, allowing to make mistakes, and stay focused on the goal have the greatest success.
These firms are nimble and can make quick corrections. They shift resources as necessary, and value all participants. These are the best places to work. These are the firms that outperform the rest. They have a vision, focus on customer service and customer satisfaction. They promote diversity and inclusion because it makes good business since. Everyone is valued. They promote collaboration. Now consider this around diversity, inclusion, and hair.
About the author
Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at email@example.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]