career

"She said my hair would kill my career." Wait, what?

Is your long hair killing your career?

Alright people, listen up and listen closely. Because this nugget of information, this extremely scientific piece of research I’m about to share: could change your life. Or at the very least, it could change your hair.

You see, according to legal blog The Careerist, there are women all over the world who are RUINING THEIR CAREERS because they refuse to cut their hair as they get older. That’s right, how seriously your colleagues take your opinions and advice in the workplace is directly and inversely proportionate to the length of your hair.

Put that in your curling iron and let it smoke.

Let’s look at exactly what The Careerist has to say about the relationship between your hair and your job:

An entertainment lawyer in California insists that women over 40 who sport long hair are making a mistake—professionally and personally. Most women end up with “long, stringy dark brown hair shot with a few frizzy strands of gray,” she says.

But “even if the hair is long, glossy, and well-maintained, the juxtaposition of aging or—to be politically correct—’mature’ facial features and youthful hairstyle doesn’t work.” The look is jolting and not compatible with professional comportment.

Not compatible with professional comportment? Well that’s distressing because I have to say that top of mind for me each day when I rock up at the office is my ‘professional comportment’. (I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure whether I comport professionally or unprofessionally, this is the first time I’ve given that critically career defining factor a moment’s thought).

The lawyer/blogger/hair-ist continues:

Joni Mitchell, sporting career-killing long hair.

I feel guilty about picking on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appearance, because I think she gets picked on way too much for the way she looks. She’s a substantive person with a substantive job. And we should leave her alone.

So forgive me for pointing out that her hair has been growing like an unruly potted plant in recent months. For a while, she looked nicely put-together. But since she’s been letting her hair grow, Clinton often looks haggard and rumpled.

I just hope she’s not planning to let it grow long. I know this doesn’t sound very liberated, but I find women over 40 with very long hair unsettling—particularly if it is straight and hangs more than a few inches below the shoulder.

(And don’t get me started on straight, blond long hair on women over a certain age!) They look rather sad and dated to me—as if they’re desperately trying to rechannel Joni Mitchell in her heyday.

Unsettling? There are many things to find unsettling in the workplace: casual racism, inappropriate use of the photocopier, visitors drinking out of your favourite West Wing mug or when people put the toilet roll on the holder the wrong way. But how your colleagues chose to wear their hair should not be unsettling.

Long haired Federal Minister Kate Ellis.

So, as much as the pronouncements of this career advisor annoy me (and her dissing of Joni Mitchell, I mean, please) As outraged as I am however, I do suspect that she might be, just a little bit right.

As a lover and grower of long hair myself, it bothers me. Can your hair seriously have an impact on your career? As I get older, do I need to get ready to do the big chop in order to get ahead? I’ve always had long hair. Partly because I like being able to do lots of stuff with it and partly because without the length I run the risk of looking like a half-Indian version of Enid Blyton’s Moonface in the Magic Faraway Tree.

ADVERTISEMENT

People do subconsciously associate long hair with youth and with femininity. And youth and femininity rarely make for a winning formula when it comes to getting ahead in the workplace. In fact for many working women, part of getting ready each morning is about trying NOT to look feminine or youthful.

For me (with my unprofessional long hair), one of the joys of coming to work at Mamamia was getting to chuck out my seemingly endless wardrobe of dark coloured suits. Don’t get me wrong, I loved fashion back when I worked in politics the same way I do now, so I would mix it up. Sometimes I wore a navy suit instead of charcoal. Now and then, I’d go TOTALLY CRAZY and wear grey. True story.

I can tell you right now though, that I won’t be cutting my hair.

We can’t live in a world where we champion diversity in the workplace but then expect everyone to conform and look and act the same way anyway. That’s not any kind of progress. The challenge for us long haired women is not to lop it off in order to fit the mold that people expect but to show that how you look has absolutely no bearing on your ability or performance.

And I think Joni Mitchell rocks. Just sayin’.

Do you have long hair? Do you think your hairstyle can effect how people treat you in the workplace?