PHOTO 2020 07 24 10 49 21 (1)

On Wednesday evening I took part in a panel discussion for aspiring black, Asian and minority ethnic lawyers. I was asked to talk about the challenges I had faced to reach my current position as an associate at Russell-Cooke.

One of the most challenging aspects to me personally has been changing the way I wear my hair to work. I used to have extensions and now I have my natural hair out.

There are a lot of social, economic, and personal issues with natural hair. Various research reports have found widespread discrimination in regard to afro hair and most black women I know have carefully considered if the way they style their hair will have an impact on their career. I certainly grappled with perceived cultural bias and the need to be seen as fitting in.

I went natural about two years ago and, yes, my colleagues did notice. However, they don't treat me any differently. For the record, I still love having extensions but feel that now going natural means I can be more of my authentic self at work. The photos here demonstrate my 'before' official work photo and my 'after work' look. Both different versions of me.

At our online event it was inspiring to see my fellow panel members wearing their hair in locs, shaved close or with extensions, feeling comfortable making their own choice about how they wear their hair, whether it 'fits in' or not.

Looking professional has never been more relaxed than during recent months in lockdown – let's hope more of my black peers will feel able to express their true selves at last.