What happens when your work is acceptable but your hair is not?

Leila – not her real name – says her London employer has told her on a number of occasions not to turn up for work with her natural hair.

She says she has been encouraged to wear a weave to disguise her afro hair.

It is not the first time that work dress codes have come under scrutiny.

Nicola Thorp from Hackney, east London described how she was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heel shoes..

But unlike Nicola whose petition calling for a change in dress code laws for women has reached 130,000, Leila says the pressure to conform to western ideals of beauty has become a struggle that she has learnt to accept.

“I am West African, and I work at a consultancy firm in London. I am always being made to feel that my natural hair gives the impression that I am unprofessional”, says Leila.

“A few years ago I had my hair styled in cornrows and I was asked quite blatantly by my boss how long it would be before my hair was back to ‘normal’.

“I was taken aback. I could not believe what I was hearing.

“Although shocked, I did change my hairstyle – I did not want my hair to be the cause of problems for me at work.”

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