A new study by researchers at Michigan State University and Duke University in North Carolina finds that Black women with natural hairstyles, such as curly Afros, braids or twists, are often perceived as less professional than Black women with straightened hair, particularly in industries where norms dictate a more conservative appearance.
Participants in the study evaluated profiles of Black and White female job applicants across a variety of hairstyles. We 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.
Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, a management professor, senior associate dean at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and co-author of the study, stated that “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. But our individually held biases often precede the type of racist practices that become embedded and normalized within organizations.”
“Although there have been some policy changes protecting Black people from discrimination based on their natural hair, these changes are fairly recent and not as widely implemented as they should be,” Dr. Rosette added. “This work illustrates that racial discrimination based on hair can occur, and we hope it can inform new policies and practices for firms to ensure they’re considering candidates equally, and furthermore, aren’t missing out on top talent.”
Dr. Rosette holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. She earned a Ph.D. in management and organizations from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
The full study, “Natural Hair Bias in Job Recruitment,” was published on the website of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. It may be accessed here.