Would 40 Inch Hair Prevent Me From Success?


Reading time: 2 minutes

Of course, 40-inch hair is ridiculously long and not realistic. But I needed to pull you into my story. 

As the known youngest black woman within  5% of the black employees in a corporate building of nearly 500 people, I am always self-conscious about certain hairstyles that I want to try. Yes, our hair is magical--we could switch from natural to straight bold--and it does all things through "conditioner" which strengthens us...yet, I still feel nervous about doing certain styles. While scrolling through Instagram, I found many images of women with long hair--bundles to their butts.

I wanted that 40-inch hair. As I was about to press the button to submit my order, I hesitated and thought about what my boss would think and what the other employees would think too. Not just white men and women, but also the opinions of the older black employees. For once in my life, I just wanted to look fly and feel good about myself. I then began to question myself.  “Would my appearance prevent me from an upcoming promotion?” and “would I still be respected as a fellow colleague?” Right then and there I’ve realized that corporate America has invisible rules that would toil with my perceived intelligence and competence as a black corporate woman.

Many black women like myself are concealed in an invisible box that subconsciously tells us how to function in society. There is a double consciousness--our identity being divided--which makes it difficult for us to express ourselves in public domains. Black individuals expressing their natural and cultural identity is unwanted compared to our Caucasian peers.

I remember a time when one caucasian woman colored her hair blue as she came back from her weekend Comic-Con trip without feeling an ounce of insecurity. And still, as black women, we have to censor ourselves to maintain a certain professional “look” that is not detrimental to our careers.

If 40 inch hair would block my potential career advances, there are definitely other things that could do the same thing such as coming off as the “angry black woman”. I still want job security and at the same time I have to make wise choices about my appearance.

Images credited to [Jopwell] 


Kiki N. works in government. She has a bachelors degree in Sociology. She is interested in the Black women narrative and experience.