Consider these two examples:
A study by Christy Zhou Khoval and Ashleigh Shelby Rosette found that “Black women with natural hairstyles were perceived to be less professional, less competent, and less likely to be recommended for a job interview than Black women with straightened hairstyles and white women with either curly or straight hairstyles.”
Dress and grooming policies that prohibit natural hairstyles disproportionately affect Black women. According to the CROWN Coalition, Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair, and 80 percent more likely than white women to say they’ve had to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office.
Discriminatory practices and policies like these effectively put the hairstyles of Black people under constant surveillance, and that takes a toll. “For many black people, particularly black women,” writes Richard J. Reddick in USA Today, policing characteristics inherent to racial identity “is a source of stress and social pressure that many of their colleagues do not have to deal with.”
Adwoa Bagalini, the Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at the World Economic Forum, notes,
“No matter how a Black woman wears her hair–whether straightened, natural, braided or lengthened with extensions–she is sure to have carefully contemplated what that means in a professional context, and how her self-presentation affects her chances of being hired, receiving recognition for her work or being promoted.”
Straightening hair also has a significant financial cost, up to thousands of dollars, and it’s not without its risks. The tools, heat, and chemicals used to straighten hair can end up damaging it.