DEI & Hair Discrimination: How to Educate Your Workforce

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DEI & Hair Discrimination: How to Educate Your Workforce

This week’s episode of Our Voices Matter Podcast explores the intersection of two topics making recent headlines: DEI in the workplace and Black women’s hair.

Diversity, equity and inclusion — along with belonging and accessibility — have remained at the forefront of corporate conversations in the last few years. Especially after the murder of George Floyd.

Last week, headlines screamed about the results of a new study by the National Institutes of Health. “Chemical hair straighteners linked to higher risk of uterine cancer for Black women, study shows.”

So, what do DEI and Black women’s hair have to do with one another? My guest, Janice Gassam Asare, Ph.D., is the perfect person to help us unravel the connections — and some solutions.

Dr. Asare is a noted DEI consultant who helps companies navigate the tricky waters of DEI, ERGs and multiple other acronyms aimed at creating a more inclusive work environment.

She’s a TEDx speaker, Senior Contributor to Forbes, an author and host of the Dirty Diversity podcast.

She is also a Top Voice on LinkedIn, and that is where she came to my attention.

Her article “4C Hair Discrimination” stopped me in my tracks and compelled me to invite her to be on the podcast.

The NIH study had just been released when we recorded our conversation.

What’s the Connection?

So, here’s a hint about the connection between DEI and the hair of Black women like me.

We use chemical hair straighteners to conform to what society — and the workplace — deem “acceptable”. Namely, hair that looks like that of our white counterparts.

And now it appears that this choice could literally be killing us.

So, what if we choose instead to wear our hair naturally — literally as it grows out of our heads?

Janice and I explore the potential ramifications of that decision, including my own hair journey (in the Switch It Up segment toward the end).

Janice also shares some of the challenges facing leaders in their quest to create a workplace where everyone feels safe and welcome. And most important, she offers some solutions to help them “get it right”.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get to it.

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Skip Aheadbecause you just can’t wait

4:00 Janice’s motivation for moving into DEI work – Her backstory

11:24 The first question Janice asks when she is hired as a DEI consultant to a company

15:33 The delicate conversations Janice has with leaders

28:22 Hair discrimination is a thing

35:15 Switch It Up – Linda shares her personal hair journey

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