Third of people with afro hair 'worried it may hold them back in the workplace'

Women share their negative experiences wearing their natural Afro hair in the workplace with ITV News' Nick Smith

Afro hair in the workplace is likely to impact a person's job prospects, a new report has found.

Respondents in a survey were given a real incident of Afro hair discrimination - when a woman did not pass her probation due to her Afro hair.

More than a third of the survey participants believed it could possibly happen in their own workplace. One fifth thought it could definitely happen in their workplace.

The report into Workplace Hair Acceptance is released to mark the seventh anniversary of World Afro Day on September 15.

The research revealed employer bias against Afrocentric hair in the workplace and a clear lack of understanding of what is legal and discriminatory towards Afro hair and Afrocentric hairstyles.

Findings also show a hierarchy of hairstyles from more Eurocentric decreasing to Afrocentric styles.

Some 84% considered straight hair on a woman appropriate in all circumstances, compared to 64% who felt an Afrocentric hairstyle (braids with buns) was appropriate. 

Several Afrocentric hairstyles were considered completely inappropriate for the workplace by one in 10 respondents (12%).

Paige Lewin says constant comments from colleagues when she changed her hairstyle gave her anxiety in a previous job. Credit: ITV News

Paige Lewin is a content creator who runs the "TextureTalks" podcast series focusing on the experience of having Afro hair.

She says in a previous senior job working in sales, her colleagues would make constant unwanted comments about her hair when she ditched a wig with straight hair and embraced her natural afro hair.

Paige told ITV News: "We have our own internal battles with our afro hair. People make comments about my hair, and again, I think they thought it was coming from a perspective of intrigue and a compliment. But over and over again you start to realise that you are different.

"If I was to come in with an afro tomorrow after being at a company for four years, having straight black hair, it would be a topic of conversation, and eventually I would be so uncomfortable that I actually don't even think I would do my job to the best that I could do it."

Michelle De Leon is the founder of 'World Afro Day'. Credit: ITV News

Michelle De Leon, the founder and CEO of World Afro Day, told ITV News: "The big thing with Afro hair is what most people would like is just to feel normal.

"Role models are just hugely important and also social media has helped in a big way for the visibility of Afro hair, because if you think about it, if we're hiding it, or we don't feel comfortable to wear it out, then it's not being seen.

"So if it does become more visible, then there's this idea that our hair is just as acceptable as everybody else's."

One person in the limelight who is proudly promoting Afro hair in the workplace is ITV News and Loose Women Presenter Charlene White.

ITV News presenter Charlene White says she made a decision to style her hair naturally on-screen and has 'never looked back'. Credit: ITV News

She said that once she decided to embrace her natural hair, she felt much more comfortable and hopes she can be a role model for others who struggle to feel confident in formal settings with Afro hair styles.

"I decided to start wearing it natural and I have never looked back," she said.

"I can wear my hair in a myriad of ways and enjoy it. That is the beauty of Afro hair.

"If there are more of us in the limelight who can show that actually we are capable of choosing what's deemed to be acceptable and smart haircare within the workplace, that's amazing."

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