By C W Headley

Ladders, May 22, 2019.

Black women experience discrimination in the workplace due to their natural hair and people need to be aware of it and take action.

Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or the CROWN Coalition is an organization co-founded by DOVE, that intends to end race-based discrimination in the workplace. Alongside the personal care brand, the coalition is composed of founding members of the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

In order to effectively unpack the impact of hair based biases in a professional setting, CROWN conducted a massive research survey of 2,000 American women between the ages of 25 and 64. 

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“This ground-breaking research provides evidence of what we have always known anecdotally – that black women experience discrimination in the workplace due to their natural hair. We are rallying our leaders, policy-makers and our communities to engage on this important issue,”  said Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League.

The key findings

Hairstyles that bear a strong association with the African American community, namely locks, braids, and Bantu knots were consistently ranked the lowest for “job readiness.” However, when participants were shown pictures of white women and black women, sporting the same hairstyles, white women were found to be  25% more likely to be deemed “job-ready” than black women, even when the hairstyles were exactly the same.

Black professionals were 30% more likely to receive a formal grooming policy in the workplace, at both the application process and the orientation phase. African American women additionally reported being 80% more likely to change their natural hair to accommodate social expectations and norms at work and by and large, women of color reported fearing scrutiny and discrimination when expressing their natural beauty in the workplace significantly more than the other respondents.

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This year the New York City Commission on Human Rights, instituted a law that precludes biases based on hairstyles by employers and schools. The commission said they were motivated by a desire to repudiate the notion that traditional black hairstyles are as a rule hygienic, messy or simply not suited for a professional setting.

More recently CROWN and Dove came together to fund The CROWN Act,  which recently passed the California Senate. The bill aims to ensure traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and style, will be protected from discrimination in the workplace and in charter/public schools.  The bill is on route to be reviewed by the California Assembly this year.  Esi Eggleston Bracey, who is the Executive Vice President, and chief operating Officer at Dove’s parent company, is both motivated and disheartened by the results of the recent research study. 

Bracey explained, “As this research highlights, there is more work to be done, but we are committed to ensuring each and every one of us sees ourselves as beautiful and celebrates our diverse array of shapes, sizes, skin tones, ethnicities, hair textures, and styles and more.”