Hair bias in the workplace is an issue that black people know too well. A recent study by Dove reveals that black women are 80% more likely to change their natural hair in order to meet social norms or expectations at work. On the other hand, many who don’t conform to Eurocentric standards are often penalized. According to the survey, black women are 50% more likely to be sent home from their jobs or know of a black woman who was sent home over their hair. Now, anti-hair-discrimination legislation is being championed by The CROWN Coalition, a national alliance comprised of Dove, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
“Dove is proud to be a part of changing the narrative for black women and girls and anyone with textured hair, and we are excited to stand with The CROWN Coalition and Sen. Holly J. Mitchell to make a tangible impact in the state of California,” said Esi Eggleston Bracey, EVP and COO of North America Beauty and Personal Care at Unilever, Dove’s parent company, in a press release.
Under the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair (CROWN) Act, employers and school officials will be prohibited from enforcing grooming policies that restrict natural hairstyles, like cornrows, braids, and locs. “The CROWN Act is about inclusion, pride, and choice,” said State Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, the author of the bill, in a statement. “This law protects the right of black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms.”
Additionally, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law Wednesday making California the first state to ban discrimination against black students and employees over their natural hairstyles. During a press conference last week, Gov. Newsom said his consciousness about the stigmatization of black hair was raised last year when a black wrestler was forced to cut off his dreadlocks in order to participate in a high school wrestling match in New Jersey. Footage of a white woman cutting off the teen’s dreads went viral and sparked a firestorm of backlash. “His decision whether or not to lose an athletic competition or lose his identity came into, I think, stark terms for millions of Americans,” said Newsom. That type of discrimination “is played out in the workplace, it’s played out in schools.”
In February, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a ban on hair discrimination, granting legal recourse for victims of the practice.
The unique set of challenges that black women face in the workplace is well-documented. A 2016 study, titled the “Good Hair” Study: Explicit and Implicit Attitudes Toward Black Women’s Hair, found that most people, regardless of race and gender, have an implicit bias toward women of color based on their hair. White women, however, have the strongest bias—both explicit and implicit—against textured hair, rating it as less beautiful, less sexy or attractive, and less professional than smooth hair.