Black woman with natural hair less likely to get job interviews, study finds

Natural hairstyles such as curly afros, twists and braids are seen as unprofessional.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Comedian Paul Mooney once joked that when Black hair is “nappy” then White folks are not happy, and a new study about natural hair seems to confirm this much is true. 

According to researchers from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Black women who rock natural hairstyles, such as curly afros, twists and braids, are less likely to land job interviews, compared to Black and White women than with straight hair. 

Participants in the study view natural Black hair as less professional. The research, set to be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science next week, highlights biases rooted in how Europeans define beauty, CNN reports, and recruiters, especially those in more conservative industries, are influenced by that standard.

Read More: Husband has visceral reaction to wife’s natural hair in YouTube video

“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,” researcher Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, a management professor and a senior associate dean, said in the press release.

“But our individually held biases often precede the type of racist practices that become embedded and normalized within organizations,” she added.

Researchers asked 480 participants of different races to play the role of recruiters screening potential job candidates. They were asked to rate images of both Black and White women (on mock Facebook and LinkedIn profiles) on their professionalism, competence and appearance. Participants gave Black women with natural hairstyles lower scores compared to Black and White women with straight hair.

Read More: Denver mom claims natural hair caused daughter to be kicked off her cheerleading squad

Results also varied by industry. Black women with natural hair were rejected for positions in management consulting, but faced no discrimination for positions in advertising, the report states. 

“This may be because advertising is viewed as a more creative industry than consulting with less rigid dress norms,” the press release said.

Rosette has called on business leaders to be aware of anti-Blackness in the form of natural-hair bias, and noted that Black woman with a natural hairstyles should not be viewed as making a militant statement. 

“What we suggest is that hair and the hair choices of Black women can be very consequential,” she said. “Hair is not just hair.”

“In no way are we asking that the Black woman change who she is,” she said. “We’re asking that people understand that this difference exists.”

California, New York, New Jersey and Virginia have taking a stand in recent years against Black-hair bias by passing legislation banning discrimination against natural hairstyles. 

These changes suggest “there is movement where there previously had not even been recognition,” Rosette said.

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