Black women’s hair 2.5x more likely to be seen as 'unprofessional', study finds

By Julia Wray | Published: 17-Feb-2023

The research was commissioned by Dove and LinkedIn as part of their #BlackHairIsProfessional campaign

Dove is partnering with business networking platform LinkedIn to help end hair discrimination in the workplace.

The move forms part of Dove’s commitment to help pass The CROWN Act in the US to end race-based hair discrimination. 

The Unilever-owned brand said that while progress has been made with the passage of The CROWN Act in some states across the country, it remains a systemic problem. 

A new CROWN 2023 Workplace Research Study, co-commissioned by Dove and LinkedIn, found black women’s hair was 2.5 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional. 

The report also revealed that 66% of black women in the US change their hair for a job interview, with 41% changing their hair from curly to straight. 

The majority of black women surveyed (54%) felt they had to wear their hair straight to a job interview to be successful. 

Beyond the interview stage, black women with coily or textured hair were two times more likely to experience microaggressions in the workplace than those with straighter hair.

And more than 20% of black women aged between 25-34 had been sent home from work because of their hair. 

The pressure is felt most strongly by young black professionals in the US; 44% of black women under 34 said they felt pressured to have a headshot with straight hair. 

Meanwhile, although 25% of black women of all ages believed they had been denied a job interview because of their hair, this was more pronounced among under-34s where one-in-three felt they’d been overlooked because of their hair.

Black women’s hair 2.5x more likely to be seen as 'unprofessional', study finds

“For far too long, black women and men have been subject to unfair treatment, outright discrimination and a myriad of inequities for simply wearing our natural hair texture and hair styles that are inherent to our cultural identity,” said Esi Eggleston Bracey, President & CEO of Unilever Personal Care in North America. 

“This includes being denied employment, being sent home from work, being overlooked for promotions and a range of microaggressions. 

“This may be hard to believe, but it is real, clearly unwarranted and unacceptable.” 

Eggleston Bracey added: “The goal of the partnership between Dove and LinkedIn is to help put an end to race-based hair discrimination in the workplace. 

“We intend to shine a light on this issue and call upon employers, hiring managers and professionals to adopt equitable and inclusive practices that create a respectful and open world for natural hair.”

Dove and LinkedIn have pledged to provide free access to ten LinkedIn Learning courses focused on creating a more equitable and inclusive work environment. 

The goal, said the companies, is to educate 1 million hiring managers and workplace professionals by the end of 2023.

They also aim to spotlight the stories and voices of black female professionals across LinkedIn and social media platforms using the hashtag #BlackHairIsProfessional to help redefine what society deems ‘professional’ at work.

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