Representation Is Important. Period.
First impressions matter. Period. The way we look, dress, and talk will determine how someone will see you and make a snap judgment. There are so many times in my 9-5 role- where I ask for feedback on a candidate it goes straight to how they looked or said something. Sitting in HR and Talent Acquisition, you see and hear a lot of things that can make you scratch your head. Bur one thing it has taught me is to be very aware. I am relaxing on how pensive this can make me… but all in all… I know people are judging.
So what happens to the women that look like me? Or any woman from communities that are not recognizable in mainstream. I have a friend who identifies as Afro-Latina, with a strong Spanish accent and coily hair. I have another dear friend that rocks a tapered fro with blond highlights and a friend that wears her hair braided. EVERY DAY. Like Brandy circa 1999. All express the same thing- anxiety. Going on interviews and how they will be perceived gave them downright panic attacks. If you never had to deal with this part of angst when it comes to an interview or changing a hairstyle- Girllll, you have to tweet us all your secret sauce! But if you are like me it took time, love, and patience to get to a comfortable to just be me.
So what happens to the women that look like me? Or any woman from communities that are not recognizable in mainstream. I have a friend who identifies as Afro-Latina, with a strong Spanish accent and coily hair. I have another dear friend that rocks a tapered fro with blond highlights and a friend that wears her hair braided. EVERY DAY. Like Brandy circa 1999. All express the same thing- anxiety going on interviews and how they will be perceived. If you never had to deal with this part of angst when it comes to an interview or changing a hairstyle- Girllll, you have to tweet us all your secret sauce! But if you are like me it took time, love, and patience to get to a comfortable to just be me.
Studies show that appearance is tied to success. For instance, attractive people are generally assumed to have higher levels of intelligence, motivation, education, and overall capability.1 Attractive persons generally have more employment opportunities and earn 10 to 15 percent more than unattractive persons. *2 Finally, attractive persons have been found to be more effective at influencing people.
The appropriate standards for appearance are measured and dictated by societal norms, for which white culture often serves as a reference. Those who do not measure up to society's norms of aesthetics, appearance, and grooming are often perceived as lazy, incompetent, and less productive. Not only do these implicit biases affect social interactions, they also affect one's ability to obtain employment. Employers often use appearance as a signal of an employee's qualifications, and even after hiring decisions are made, employers continue to regulate the appearance of their employees through dressing and grooming policies. *3
I get it. I have clients in tears about what to do with their hair. Not their skill or interview… but their hair! Hurts my heart… but I have been there! I think that is why I am so adamant about representation being important. Being your authentic self is not only freeing but it is educational to those that are ignorant to different looks and cultures. Diversity in any setting is beautiful. In culinary, in fashion, in design aesthetic—same goes for the workplace. I would like to encourage you not to straighten your hair for an interview, if you do not want too. Or put on a wig you think is more acceptable. If you are more comfortable- good! That is my point. But if you are really reconsidering wearing your braids to an interview or rocking your twa to work- please do. Here are a few ways to help ease the transition:
· Write positive affirmations about your appearance
· Go on pinterest and look for hair inspiration and styles
· Consult a natural hair stylist on your hair texture and type
· Get appropriate products for styling and maintaining healthy hair
· Stare in the mirror until you love what you see
Sis, I wouldn’t tell you anything I haven’t done. I literally went through the same steps. All because the hair that grows outta my damn head (the hair God gave me) has caused me so much angst. Isn’t it crazy? But listen, I know it is a thing for us. Once we are comfortable and confident in our appearance and presentation- the rest of finding or maintaining our careers is practice and development. Let’s be strong in being ourselves and find others that help you be strong in that. Hell, interviewing and job hunting is enough frustration!
*2 See Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jeff E. Biddle, Beauty and the Labor Market, 84 Am. Econ. Rev. 1174-1194 (Dec. 1994); see also Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth, 31 J. Hum. Resources 304-330 (Spring 1996) (Obese women have lower family incomes than women whose weight-for-height is in the “recommended” range. Differences in economic status by body weight increase for obese women who are single and childless.).
*3 Elizabeth M. Adamitis, Appearance Matters: A Proposal to Prohibit Appearance Discrimination in Employment, 75 WASH. L. REV. 195, 197 (2000).