Having a diverse workforce can lead to a more inclusive workplace culture, and improve communication, productivity, and creativity among employees. When people come from different backgrounds, races, and genders, it can help not only their coworkers but also the company as well, to understand the needs of a diverse customer base.
However, the representation of diversity can often result in backlash or discrimination, especially when expressing your racial identity through how you wear your hair. For people of color (POC), expanding natural hair and its acceptance in the workplace has been an ongoing battle.
At StyleSeat, we know how important it is to express yourself through beauty, so we were curious to know how Americans feel about natural hair representation in the workplace. To find out, we surveyed 1,252 Americans about their thoughts on natural hair in the workplace and what people of color have experienced as a result of wearing their natural hair. Our pool of respondents included people of color and white people, but sometimes we report their responses individually.
- Wearing their hair natural to work is preferred for 83% of people of color.
- People of color are discriminated against for wearing their natural hair, according to 54% of respondents.
- Employers could do more to decrease hair discrimination, according to 46% of people of color.
Hair discrimination people of color (POC) receive at work
Hair discrimination in the workplace can impact an employee’s confidence, focus, and overall well-being. While some companies take steps to protect POC wearing their natural hair by adopting “natural hair policies” and conducting diversity and inclusion assessments, other companies are still behind on the movement. So much so that 46% of POC think their employer could do more to decrease hair discrimination at work.
Although 83% of POC prefer to wear their natural hair to work, 16% have felt discriminated against for doing so. Discrimination at work can present itself in many forms, one way is by limiting the roles certain people can take on. Almost double the amount of people of color feel they didn’t get a job because of their appearance compared to white people who have felt that way. When looking specifically at Black and Hispanic people, we found both have felt like they’ve been negatively impacted at work because of their appearance.
“Can I touch your hair” — unprofessional responses to natural hair
Along with discrimination, some POC experience racially charged comments and unprofessional situations because of their natural hair. Comments like “you change your hair a lot,” jokes about their hair, and asking which part of their hair is real are some of the common comments POC receive about their hair. Common unprofessional situations people of color have encountered include someone asking to touch their hair, and 23% have had people actually touch their hair without asking.
When it comes to more, 60% of people of color think POC are discriminated against at work for wearing their natural hair, and 51% of white people feel the same way. Even with apparent discrimination, the majority feel like society is moving in the right direction with 85% of POC reporting that they think society is becoming more accepting of natural hair in the workplace.
How natural hair is represented in the workplace
Although natural hair is not chemically straightened or altered, POC still showcase their natural texture in different styles. The most popular natural hairstyles that are seen in the workplace are very curly hair, followed by braids, afros, fades, and locs.
Hair is such an important part of one’s physical appearance that our entire pool of respondents, including white people, report it being the second most prominent feature after the eyes, and 86% of those surveyed admit they notice their coworkers’ hairstyles. When it comes to natural hair in the workplace, 97% of our respondents say they don’t care if a POC wears their natural hair to work, yet 40% of people have heard someone comment to a person of color about their recent hair change.
71% believe natural hair is acceptable in all industries
Americans don’t only pay attention to the natural hair in their offices but also the representation they see across industries. Although 71% of people believe natural hair is acceptable in all industries, there are industries where people report they’re least likely to see POC wearing their natural hair, like the military and the government.
When it comes to industries people wish they saw more POC wearing their natural hair, media, news, and government top the list.
At work, the hairstyles you wear don’t go unnoticed, even if you’re not a person of color. A majority (61%) of people have gotten a general comment about their hair while at work, and 48% have had someone comment to them about another co-worker’s hairstyle.
The workplace is becoming more inclusive to POC wearing their natural hair, but there is still work to be done. Representing natural hair in different hairstyles that you prefer is a great way to spread diversity across the workforce.
At StyleSeat, you can find a hairstylist near you who can help show your uniqueness in the workplace with a beautiful natural hairstyle. Whether you’re looking for someone who specializes in braids, fades, twists, or another natural hairstyle, StyleSeat’s platform can make your search easy.
From March 14, 2023 to March 15, 2023, we surveyed 1,252 Americans about their thoughts on natural hair in the workplace and what people of color have experienced as a result of wearing their natural hair. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 76 years old, and were 47% female, 51% male, and 2% nonbinary.