Hair is just not hair

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

BLACK women’s hair styled not only contributes to their physical beauty but also determines their job prospects, a new study has revealed.

According to CNN, black women with natural hairstyles, which include traditional afros, braids and twists are less likely to secure job interviews than white women or black women with straightened hair. 

The CNN report is based on studies carried out by researchers from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

According to participants in the studies, natural black hairstyles were perceived as less professional. The effect of the perception is particularly pronounced in industries where a conservative appearance is common.

The research shows, among others, that societal biases perpetuate racial discrimination in the workplace. The study is expected to be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. 

“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,” researcher Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, a management professor and a senior associate dean, said in the press release. 

“But our individually held biases often precede the type of racist practices that become embedded and normalized within organizations,” she added. The biases are rooted in a standard of beauty in many Western societies that is based on White women and straightened hair, Rosette told CNN. It also becomes the standard of perceived professionalism, and recruiters are then influenced by that standard, she said. 

The studies involved hundreds of participants of different races, who were asked to screen potential job candidates in the same way as recruiters, giving them a score for competence, professionalism and other factors, based on mocked-up Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

According to CNN, in three of the studies, participants were selected from the general population.  The study comparing attitudes in management consulting and advertising involved MBA students.

Participants gave Black women with natural hair lower scores for competence and professionalism, and didn’t recommend them for interviews as often, compared with Black women with straightened hair, White women with straight hair or White women with curly hair.

In one instance, two groups of participants were asked to evaluate the same Black female job candidate. While one group were shown a photo of the candidate with natural hair, the other saw an image of her with straight hair. The latter group gave the candidate a higher score for professionalism, and  recommended her for interview more strongly.

Rosette told CNN that while it is not standard practice for job applicants to provide photos, it is incredibly easy for recruiters to look someone up online. “It would almost be an automatic thing to Google the person’s name and see what their profile looks like on social media,” she said.

Results also varied by industry. For example, black female candidates with natural hair were discriminated against when they were screened for positions in management consulting, which researchers say has “conservative dress norms.”

However, they were not discriminated against for positions in advertising.