Corporate America help!

FieldsOfCottonFieldsOfCotton BannedBanned Users Posts: 59
Happy Holidays curlies!
I have an issue! I just recently started working with a big accounting firm in Chicago. I truly believe that I have been blessed to find a job in this economy, but as we all know God is good! :wav:
Last week, I was called into a managers office about my hair who just so happened to be black. She was very friendly and helpful. She informed me that there has been talk around the office about my hair and many people have problems with it.:dontknow: My first mind was to ask her if people have problems with it why don't they say something to me, but she did say that they know its discrimination. Also she was very nice and told me that she was giving me a heads up because she wants me to be on an even playing field as my peers. She said she doesn't want my hair to set me apart from my class. She even offered me some solutions as a curly haired woman herself like try pulling it back more or pinning it in a bun or ponytail. She even told me I don't have to do anything its just advice. Given the economy, lots of people have been laid off from my company and more than half were minorities.
I am very grateful that she took the time to inform me, but I'm just frustrated because if she wouldn't have told me I would have never even known! I would have continued to wear my hair curly. :angry5: The thing is when I interviewed my hair was straight and even during my summer internship of 08. During my senior year in college I went natural. When I began my job a few months ago I have been wearing it natural. I am in deep love with my hair right now and this issue has become a roadblock for me. :dontknow:
So I told some friends and family about the problem and people are telling me to perm it, straighten it, etc. They are also saying you have to play "their" game and beat them at it. Ok I understand that, but I don't want to straighten my hair and definitely NOT PERM IT!!!! I just really need some advice from some kinky curly girls that work in corporate america...How do you wear your hair? What do you do if upper level management has issues with your hair?
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Comments

  • msjaimmsjaim Registered Users Posts: 948
    Its a shame this same topic comes up every so often.


    first things first, document that ish. It came from her mouth that it is discrimination.

    Im a chicagoan & have been in banking for over 10 yrs & my hair has never been an issue or a roadblk for me. Thats bs. tell her that your hair does not affect your perfessionalism or your performance & although its unfortunate that it doesnt meet other ppls personal aesthetic perferences, thats the way your hair grows out of your scalp.
  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Registered Users Posts: 15,402 Curl Neophyte
    when I interviewed my hair was straight and even during my summer internship of 08.
    This is how they saw you so your being natural is an issue I guess. I would go along to get along, but not to the pont of straightening. How are you wearing your hair now? Can you put it in a bun, twists, twist extensions, braids? I see no reason for you to straighten.

    This manager - is she your manager or your manager's manager? Are you a direct report? If she is not, I would speak frankly with with your direct manager or hiring manager and ask their honest opinion about whether your hair is an impediment to your professional image, career advancement and development.

    Some firms can be tight-assed. The photos you see below are how I wear my hair almost every day, but I work for an enterprise computer distribution firm and code is business casual or business professional (very few suit days). Still it's a Fortune 150. However, I did walk through the door as a curly. I was texlaxed at the time and went totally natch in 2006 while employed there. And I'm still working there.
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  • NubianCoilsNubianCoils Registered Users Posts: 2,149
    Wow. This is a tough one. It's hard for me to give you the advice I want to because of the economy. And I would tell you that you should have gone to your interview the way you plan to wear your hair (which is what I did), but you hadn't gone natural at the time you were interviewing.

    Please know that you do NOT have to take this advice. This is only what I would do if I were in your situation, but times are hard so I'm not going to encourage you to do something that might cost you your job. I don't know your finances. However, this is what I would do:

    I would have a meeting with this woman and express my concern. I would ask her point blank if the people who have a problem with it are my superiors or if they in any way can influence my progress at the firm. If not, problem solved. I don't care what they think. If so, I would take the matter further and speak with HR. I would make sure that it was on record somewhere that I was concerned for the safety of my position and advancement because of something I can't help (the way my hair looks) cause this IS discrimination. And most large corporate firms aren't stupid in this way. They will know you have a valid concern and will probably shape up quickly.
    I would also give the impression that I'm the type of person that would "take it there", if you will. Discrimination happens all the time, but very rarely do people act on it when they are discriminated against. If they sense you are the type that will act, they may shape up.

    Lastly, if you are still feeling uncomfortable, "play the game". Don't do anything that in your eyes would be unhealthy for your hair, but wear it in a bun and send out your resume and get out of there as fast as you can. I don't know about you, but I would find it highly stressful to work somewhere where I was scared to let my hair loose if I was running late to work one day.

    I really hope this helps!! But under NO circumstances would I straighten my hair for this. That's like asking me to bleach my skin cause I'm too dark and that makes you uncomfortable. I wouldn't even consider that and I wouldn't consider straightening either. You HAVE to take me as I come.
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  • msjaimmsjaim Registered Users Posts: 948
    this type of crap just pisses me off though.. no one else has to go through so much damn scrutiny. ppl go to college or work & get experience, work hard to try & get ahead & then they kcuf with ppl because of something that occurs genectically.
  • newmenewme Registered Users Posts: 141
    I am almost afraid to post this reply because I know that there are some who are going to be totally offended by it. That said, you asked for opinions so here it goes. I think that corporate america is very conservative as a general rule. As such, I think that there is an expectation that employees reflect the corporate culture. This means that employees are expected to dress a certain way, communicate in a certain way and, yes, groom themselves in a certain way.

    I believe that natural hair can be appropriate in a corporate environment but only if it is styled in a pretty conservative way. I have seen folks with fierce, fly, out-the-box hair that would be entirely inappropriate in an office setting. I also have collegues with twa's, loc's, braids, twists, and twist-outs who look professional and are doing quite well.

    You didn't post any pics so I'm not sure how you are wearing your hair at work, but you might want to evaluate whether your look is conservative enough for your work environment. If not, you may try some more tame natural styles.

    Now of course the real issue here is how much are you willing to compromise who you are for your job. I can say that every job requires some sort of compromise. Some are easy to live with, others not so much. I am an in-house lawyer for a major corporation. I have to come to work in a business suit every day. I would prefer to wear yoga pants or jeans but it is not appropriate attire for my job.

    Re: my hair, I bc'd from apl length relaxed hair to a 2 1/2 inch twa after I had been with the company for about a year. Folks were surprised, some complementary, others pretty silent. I wear my hair in twist outs with or without a headband but I do not wear twists to work. I would not dream of wearing bantu knots or even a wash-n-go at my current length. It would look too wild for this culture. I don't feel like these compromises are too much for me but only you can answer whether changing your hairstyle would be too big of a compromise for you.
  • BekkaPooBekkaPoo Registered Users Posts: 3,861 Curl Neophyte
    msjaim wrote: »
    Its a shame this same topic comes up every so often.


    first things first, document that ish. It came from her mouth that it is discrimination.

    Im a chicagoan & have been in banking for over 10 yrs & my hair has never been an issue or a roadblk for me. Thats bs. tell her that your hair does not affect your perfessionalism or your performance & although its unfortunate that it doesnt meet other ppls personal aesthetic perferences, thats the way your hair grows out of your scalp.

    +1!!!!

    Especially about documenting the conversation. If you happen to get fired (I don't wish this on you) or if you are getting more bad attitude from your coworkers, you may have a discrimination case on your hands, so you will have to have some kind of evidence on your side. Note dates, times, and most importantly names. Try to be as accurate as you can when you note details.

    This is chapping my a$$ too. :angry5: Regardless of whether you had straight hair during your interview if your coworkers are that put off by your hair, that's their problem. I see no reason to allow them "put you in your place" like this.

    Good luck and I hope that something good comes out of this..
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  • Storm_N _MomStorm_N _Mom Registered Users Posts: 259
    Happy Holidays curlies!
    . . .Also she was very nice and told me that she was giving me a heads up because she wants me to be on an even playing field as my peers. She said she doesn't want my hair to set me apart from my class. She even offered me some solutions as a curly haired woman herself like try pulling it back more or pinning it in a bun or ponytail. She even told me I don't have to do anything its just advice. . . .

    I think tis manager, as a natural sister, understands how you feel, and offered some great advise. She was not forward, or pushy about it, and even said you could do nothing. It appears she understands the climate you both work in, and offered sound solutions to the situation.

    I personally where my hair bunned every day during the work week.
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  • TrenellTrenell Registered Users Posts: 3,562 Curl Connoisseur
    She informed me that there has been talk around the office about my hair and many people have problems with it.:dontknow: ?

    I think she may be stretching the truth a bit.

    I don't know how you are wearing your hair, but this kind of thing makes me so mad. Some people project their securities onto others. So unless every single woman in the office wears a bun or ponytail, I call shananigans.
  • Curly_JammyCurly_Jammy Registered Users Posts: 626
    I think it was good of your manager to pull you aside like she did, understanding your office culture and working within it is the best thing your can do for yourself, more so now than ever, with the economy being the way it is.

    Documenting the conversation is a very good idea, if you are just out of college and have not been on the job very long filing a discrimination case right away would not be the best thing for you long term career, imho.

    Wearing your hair in a bun or french roll, will save you from having to perm or straighten it. You really dont know who was complaining about your hair, it could be peers or higher ups.

    This topic constantly comes up within my own circle of girlfriends as we are all professionals. I always say, each field, each office, has is own culture, if you want to successed you must play the "Professional Appearance Game", rather its bunning your hair, or taking language lessons to minimize an accent. Croporate America has never been big on self expression in the workplace fact of life.
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  • freshwaterpearlfreshwaterpearl Registered Users Posts: 305 Curl Neophyte
    I feel sooooo irritated reading this. It is unfortunate that you have to endure this nonsense. The manager that spoke to you is FULL of it. I totally agree with Trenell no-one in the office is speaking about you except for her and maybe some higher up. When a manager in corporate states "there has been some talk amongst some of your colleagues" it basically means her and other managers and VP's. She is trying to play devils advocate, acting as if she is looking out for you when in reality she has ulterior motives.
    That same way she will take some notes down that she spoke to you I hope you do the same as well, she is not genuinely concerned. This is corporate we are speaking about; these individuals the majority of the time are just out for themselves.
  • rosscdrosscd Registered Users Posts: 464
    What a tough situation. As an accountant who works for a conservative bank that recently went natural, I understand the situation.

    I believe the manager was sincere in her approach. Accounting firms tend to want you to project their image; not your own.

    I would try some of her suggestions. You don't want your image to outshine your abilities.

    Even though I am 10 years into this career, I had so many questions when I went natural last year. I use a lot more gel at work than on the weekends to ensure I am presenting a neat professional look.

    Unfortunately, you are in a profession that is outward facing to clients. White men can't wear their hair out in long pony tails and black women can't rock the Angela Davis fro.

    I know I am about to get yelled at, but I wanted to keep it real.
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  • PrettycurlsPrettycurls Registered Users Posts: 1,482
    Trenell wrote: »
    She informed me that there has been talk around the office about my hair and many people have problems with it.:dontknow: ?

    I think she may be stretching the truth a bit.

    I don't know how you are wearing your hair, but this kind of thing makes me so mad. Some people project their securities onto others. So unless every single woman in the office wears a bun or ponytail, I call shananigans.


    I agree. This seems so random and odd.
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  • lashon20lashon20 Registered Users Posts: 1,150
    I feel sooooo irritated reading this. It is unfortunate that you have to endure this nonsense. The manager that spoke to you is FULL of it. I totally agree with Trenell no-one in the office is speaking about you except for her and maybe some higher up. When a manager in corporate states "there has been some talk amongst some of your colleagues" it basically means her and other managers and VP's. She is trying to play devils advocate, acting as if she is looking out for you when in reality she has ulterior motives.
    That same way she will take some notes down that she spoke to you I hope you do the same as well, she is not genuinely concerned. This is corporate we are speaking about; these individuals the majority of the time are just out for themselves.


    I agree, I was thinking the same thing.
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  • vmochavmocha Registered Users Posts: 125
    Smh
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  • PrettycurlsPrettycurls Registered Users Posts: 1,482
    I also want to say congratulations!

    I agree that this should be documented.

    But I think the first thing that would be wise to do is to research the corporate policies on appearance yourself.

    All companies have policies and guidelines as to what they expect from employees - I am sure. I would read those and see if or how far you veer off from that or how true what she is saying is.

    Or I would ask my manager directly about the policies and whether or not you have transgressed them in some way. You could say I really enjoy working here and I want to present a strong image of the company ... I really value and appreciate honest feedback that allows me to improve... and then segueway into...


    I wouldn't automatically accept this woman as an ally or what she says as gospel. I don't like the way she framed that - oh some nebulous group of people were talking about your hair etc..

    I mean there is a difference between Catty Kathy in support services or even this woman and her freinds giving theier opinions about your hair and the person who hired you or your superiors saying this. And why would they verbalize this to her? Who is she to you or the mysterious theys who were talking?

    You know just be careful. The fact that you got hired during a recession shows how good you are. You may be competition for this woman.

    I think you should look into the policies and seek for yourself and cultivate allies.
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  • CityGirl81CityGirl81 Registered Users Posts: 418
    This is so sad. I work in Corporate America in downtown Chicago as well and I find it amazing my Caucasian female director from the Nederlands and my Caucasian male boss from Mt Prospect have NEVER said anything to me once I stopped wearing wigs and showed my natural hair. I hear more off comments from "us" than anyone else. I would research the code of conduct for the company and document, document, document! I agree with some of the posters that it's "her" who more than likely has the issue. Good luck!
  • ajnaajna Registered Users Posts: 494
    I think that a lot of people may disagree with me but I tend to act conservative at work. When I was in accounting and working for a political firm I never once wore my hair out nor did I wear big earrings. Even when I had braids my hair was always pulled back.

    Now I am in public health and there are a lot of free spirits where I am sure my fro would be widely accepted but until I have PhD behind my name my hair is still pulled back sometimes in a puff or bun.

    I guess I want my work to stand out now how I look. Plus I think I like how I look on the weekends and on my time out of work to be drastically different. At work I am one side but at home or on my time I am just me. Not sure if it makes sense but that is how I handle it for better or worse.
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  • cheveuxboucléscheveuxbouclés Registered Users Posts: 1,111
    Did they also have a talk with the balding accountant with the bad comb over? Perhaps they should suggest a toupe for him...
    In all seriousness, I think it is a shame that so many people focus on hair. With that being said, conservative is conservative and I don't think it only extends to black people. If a white person was rocking a mohawk or a mullet, I am sure people would be "talking" too. In places like that, flat, stringy, hair or plain jane ponytails are the norm. Anything outside of that will stir the pot. I personally cannot conform to those standards, but I also don't ever plan on working for a corporate company either,lol.
    Best of luck!
  • BleuSoulBleuSoul Registered Users Posts: 110
    Hmm I would say I tend to agree with Newme and Rosscd.

    I think the manager does sound sincere. It is rare to have someone pull you aside in the corporate world and give you a headsup on what is being said. I would think it is unlikely (although not impossible) that the sista has a hidden agenda or motive against you since as you said you are new to the company. In fact I give her kudos for letting you in on the "lowdown" so to speak. This person can be an ally to you and i would cultivate that.

    Now this being said, I also work in a major corporate company. Fortunately this is on the west coast and is a business casual environment. I would say that of the black females employed at my site over 75% of us are natural. This includes braids, twists, locs, and fros. There are straight and permed sisters too but a substantial number of us are rocking natural styles. Now even still I am sure a lot of the "comfort" we enjoy is because again this is the west coast and we work for a relatively free spirited company. Even with that, we do tend to rock more tame natural styles in the office.

    Having been in corporate america for 20+ years I would agree with some of the previous posters analysis in that unfortunately it is still primarily a white males game and we have to learn to play it. I would not compromise my values in the least, but I would truly consider which battles were worth fighting. I believe you can maintain your committment to natural hair with a few adjustments to your style. You will not lose anything in the end and you should not have to straighten or perm your hair if you dont want to.
  • coracora Registered Users Posts: 456
    Is it possible to show a picture of your hair? I would like to see what is considered disturbing to others.
  • Kinky RhonnieKinky Rhonnie Registered Users Posts: 1,166
    You have been given great advice so far so I'm just dropping in to offer support.

    I've been in Corporate America for many years but will be approaching my second year as a natural in February 2010 in the 3rd largest financial institution in the US.

    Not once has anyone ever said anything negative to me about my hair and I've gone from the transition, 1" twa, two-strand twists, twistouts, braidouts,and the the big fat afro puff.

    As the ladies stated, date and document every statement.

    Be sure that you keep your hair neat and do you.

    Be confident and brush them haters off.

    They just wish they had your guts.
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  • msbigfinefromsbigfinefro Registered Users Posts: 69
    When I had dreds, i was "called" into the managers office for unprofessional hair and they didnt even know that my hair was dres, they thought they were braids..anywho I was told I couldn't wera my hair half up and down becaseu some of my dreds were sticking up, and i was a teller at a bank...5 mles outside of New orleans..long story short I complied but shortly therafter moved to a different department..NOw i work for same company inthe corporate building and bc'ed two months ago and havent heard anything about it. If they call y ou into the office, then someone has told them to talk to you about it, bun your hair, work hard, and pray for the day that you can wither work for yourself, or work somewhere were you are not judged for your hair. It burned me up for a long time that they even bothered me with that foolishness where they had white girls who wore their har half up and down with little peices sticking up..anyway you live and learn and get wiser
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  • springyheadspringyhead Registered Users Posts: 350
    I personally think bad weaves, bad wigs, and balding, thinning hair is unprofessional looking. No one says anything about that though...maybe it's just me :lol:


    Anyway. With that said, I do think there are certain hairstyles that are more appropriate for the work place. And this has nothing to do with being natural, and more to do with the corporate world being on the conservative side. Maybe a fly frohawk doesn't fly in your office. But a straight haired mohawk wouldn't fly either. See what I mean?

    How are you wearing your hair? Since she's not rocking straight hair, and offered ways of pulling it back etc, maybe it's less talk about being natural, and more about how it's styled. If you take the "do as the romans do" route, I would try styling your natural hair more conservatively (buns, neat afros, rollersets, twistouts, etc) before resorting to straightening it. Maybe that's what she meant.
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  • FieldsOfCottonFieldsOfCotton Banned Banned Users Posts: 59
    Thanks so much for the advice!!! ;-) I do want to keep my job for a while so I think I plan on bunning and pulling it back more with headbands. I refuse to straighten it or get a perm! :protest: Corporate America is horrible! I have learned I can't work it in for the rest of my life! I will document everything just in case the situation becomes discriminatory. I will post of pic a couple of pics of my hair for u! I would love to hear what you ladies think if my hair should be ok at work?
  • FieldsOfCottonFieldsOfCotton Banned Banned Users Posts: 59
    I am the curly girl in all those photos. Fyi There have been times when I have tamed my hair down a bit more for work. lol
  • BekkaPooBekkaPoo Registered Users Posts: 3,861 Curl Neophyte
    FoCotton, your hair is too fly. :shock: I think this may just be a case of misplaced jealousy..

    Well think of it this way, bunning your hair will only make it more fly. ;-)
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  • NubianCoilsNubianCoils Registered Users Posts: 2,149
    I am the curly girl in all those photos. Fyi There have been times when I have tamed my hair down a bit more for work. lol

    See, this has cleared everything up. That woman is just jealous cause your hair's so fly and this was her elaborate attempt to get "rid" of it by making you pull it back.:binky:
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  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Registered Users Posts: 15,402 Curl Neophyte
    I am the curly girl in all those photos. Fyi There have been times when I have tamed my hair down a bit more for work. lol
    FieldsofCotton, still curious if the manager who spoke to you is your direct manager or in your line of direct report or your human resources manager? Or is she a black manager just trying to be "helpful"? If it's the latter, take her comments with a grain of salt. If you want to check it out, have a casual chat with either your direct manager or the human resources manager and say something like, "I know companies have a certain culture and I know it's important to be part of it. Since I'm relatively new and still learning the ropes, I would like your honest opinion. Do you think my look is professional and appropriate to the company, or do you think I could improve it?" Don't mention your hair specifically.

    IMO, your hair looks pretty and if you are dialing it down a bit more for work, I don't see the problem. Mix up your wash and goes with buns and twists and be done with it. If your manager doesn't have an issue, and this other manager doesn't influence your job in any way, it's just noise. You may not fit into her and her colleagues "view" - so what?

    If your direct management is asking you to change in a way you don't want to, there are other companies out there that will be inclusive of you.
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  • coracora Registered Users Posts: 456
    I agree, your hair is fabulous! So the question then becomes is this a case of racism ?(ie your coworkers can't equate your cute style to other cute styles worn by white girls) or is it the case that everyone at works wears super conservative hairstyles (ie buns, low ponytails and long bobs)? I'd say look around and see how truly conservative women wear their hair. If it is a truly conservative place (and not all corporate America is) then I'd fall in line, if it isn't I'd be concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg and start getting my ducks in a row 'cause it aint over yet.
  • PrettycurlsPrettycurls Registered Users Posts: 1,482
    After seeing the pictures I am not understanding at all.

    You hair is shaped well and looks nice.
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