Black women denied jobs because of their hairstyles call for education

  • Watch a report by Katie Ridley

A woman who was denied a job because her natural hair was deemed "inappropriate" has called for more understanding when it comes to traditional Black hairstyles.

Vaina Lumbiwa, from Hartlepool, applied for a job in the hospitality sector but was told she didn’t get it because of her natural hair style. 

“After a few days, I got the email saying that I didn't get the position due to my appearance, specifically my hair. 

“So it was heartbreaking to be honest, because, l was fully qualified for the job,” she told ITV News. 

Vaina Lumbiwa's hair was styled naturally when she was told she wouldn't be hired. Credit: Vaina Lumbiwa

Ms Lumbiwa is one of a number of women who have spoken up about the discrimination they've faced in the workplace. 

Rosie May, from Ipswich, is a professional dancer and ended up shaving her hair in hope of getting more opportunities.

“Sometimes I auditioned and I'd have my hair in braids, once I'd come out of college. I definitely noticed a change in the attitude in the audition room where maybe I would have received a job or felt like I danced well enough to get the job."But with braids, that was another level of not being what they were looking for, which is another element of racism and discrimination,” she said. 

Rosie May shaved her head in the hope it would help her get more work. Credit: Rosie May

Now, in a bid to stop hair discrimination in the workplace, the organisation World Afro Day has launched a campaign to educate employers. 

Celebrities including entrepreneur and television personality Levi Roots have spoken up about how damaging a lack of education can be.

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Roots said: "My hair has been the main focal point of everything, what I stand for and what I believe in. But I struggled."

Levi Roots (left) is backing the campaign led by World Afro Day founder Michelle De Leon. Credit: ITV News

He said it was a shame to see the discrimination he recalled from the 1970s still being experienced in the workforce today.

"That was many years ago in the '70s when I started to dread my hair and it's a shame now to see it's happening in the workplace, where you can't go in and be yourself."

Mr Roots added: “I think being yourself is is a basic human right."

In the UK, there are established laws to protect against racially motivated discrimination.

The Founder of World Afro Day, Michelle De Leon, says hair discrimination is still very present in the workplace and wants to stop it.

"We know from research that Black employees are saying that they are experiencing hair discrimination in interviews, in promotion, in gaining jobs or losing jobs.  

“We're at a time where people's skills, talents and abilities are what should be the reason that they do well in their jobs. 

“But unfortunately, we're still in a position where companies, actually individuals are told that their hair may stop progressing in their career." 

Ms De Leon hopes the video can be shown to employers across the world to help tackle discrimination. 

World Afro Day will take place on 15 September. 

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