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8 Top Professionals and CEOs Who Wear Their Natural Hair

Avatar • Jan 21, 2015

We are so used to reading stories of natural hair being “rejected in the workplace”, that to be both a top professional and relaxer‐free is almost unimaginable. In all actuality, that is far from the truth. Here are eight top black female professionals, including CEOs, who wear their natural hair.

1. Dr. Helene Gayle

Dr Helene Gayle

Dr. Helene D. Gayle has been President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) USA since 2006. Prior to these positions, she served as “the AIDS coordinator and chief of the HIV/AIDS division for the U.S. Agency for International Development; director for the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC; director of CDC’s Washington office; and health consultant to international agencies including the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank and UNAIDS.”

Dr Helene-Gayle-2

2. Esi Eggleston Bracey

Esi Eggleston Bracey

Esi Eggleston Bracey is Vice President & General Manager of Global Cosmetics Innovation at Proctor and Gamble. She has held that role for several years.

More about Bracey from Vyneworld:

Esi made history when she joined Procter & Gamble in 1991 as she was one of the youngest employees to become general manager. She is now in charge of over 1,000 employees and is responsible for P&G’s popular CoverGirl and Max Factor brands, which have garnered over $2 billion in retail sales worldwide.

History Maker: First female African‐American to attain her position at P&G. She said this of her “first” status, “If my role inspires people to appreciate our unique gifts, then I’m making a difference, and that means a lot to me.”

esi eggleton

esi and pink

3. Ursula Burns

ursula burns

Ursula M. Burns has been chairman and CEO of Xerox, since 2010 and 2009, respectively.

Here is more about Burns from the Xerox website:

In addition to the Xerox board, she serves on the board of directors of both the American Express and Exxon Mobil Corporations. Burns also provides leadership counsel to community, educational and non‐profit organizations including FIRST — (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), National Academy Foundation, MIT and the U.S. Olympic Committee, among others. She is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the U.S.’s education system in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In March 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export Council.”

Ursula-Burns quote

4. Window Snyder

window snyder 2

Window Snyder was a senior security strategist at Microsoft for three years and chief of security (officially “Chief Security Something‐Or‐Other”) at Mozilla Corporation after that. Currently, she is the Senior Product Manager for Security and Privacy at Apple Inc.

5. Susan Chapman‐Hughes

 

SUSAN E. CHAPMAN

Susan E. Chapman‐Hughes is Senior Vice President of the Global Real Estate and Workplace Enablement, Global Human Resource Shared Services for American Express. As an experienced global executive, she has also “led various organizational business transformation and growth efforts in Fortune 500 companies including Citigroup and Level 3 Communications.

SUSAN E. CHAPMAN-HUGHES

6. Paula Madison

Paula Madison

Paula Madison is the CEO of Williams Group Holdings, the majority owner of the Los Angeles Sparks. She is also an award‐winning journalist, held the position of news director at WNBC‐TV and was the first Chief Diversity Officer in the history of NBCUniversal.

Paula Madison and Husband

7. Linda Clement‐Holmes

LINDA CLEMENT-HOLMES

Linda W. Clement‐Holmes has been Chief Information Officer at The Procter & Gamble Company since January 1, 2015. Prior to that, she served as Global Information & Decision Solutions Officer at Procter & Gamble and Senior Vice President of Global Business Services.

More about Clement‐Holmes from P&G:

Clement‐Holmes is a 27‐year P&G veteran, and maintains her existing global business services responsibilities. She has spent 27 years with P&G, and joined it as a systems analyst and moving up the ladder in its information technology and business services units. She has been a Director of Cincinnati Financial Corp. since February 1, 2010. Ms. Clement‐Holmes holds a BSIM degree in industrial management and computer science from Purdue University in 1982.”

LINDA-CLEMENT-HOLMES

8. Valerie Amos

Valerie-Amos

Valerie Amos was Under‐Secretary‐General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations since 2010. (She recently resigned to pursue other ventures but is still worth mentioning.)

More about Amos:

From 2007 to 2009, Ms. Amos was Chair of the Royal African Society and a Fulbright Commissioner. Between 2003 and 2007, she served as Cabinet minister, Leader of the House of Lords and Secretary of State for International Development. In the latter role, she was called upon to participate in discussions and negotiations to tackle conflicts and post‐conflict situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other parts of the world. From 2001 to 2003, she served as Africa Minister.
Born in 1954, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and a Master of Arts in cultural studies.”

Valerie Amos

 

Do you know any other top professionals who wear their natural hair? Are you comfortable wearing your natural hair to work?

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Dimples
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Dimples

I like that fact that we are recognizing professional black women and their natural hair. However, very few had long hair or long hair without Dreds. I know having natural hair is doing what works for you but I feel we may only show that it’s only acceptable if it’s a more relax texture, Dreds, or short.

Rose
Guest
Rose

That’s not true at all. Window Snyder has longer hair, and so does Esi Bracey. Helene Gayle also might have twists in that picture. Locs are acceptable in some settings and less so in others. In places where many women just say “to heck with it”, and wear their locs as they please, locs are more accepted by society. In places where women are afraid, nothing gets done. This article just demonstrates a handful of women who didn’t let stigma stop them from being successful, while still maintaining their natural appearance. I actually think longer natural hair is easier to… Read more »

Cosita
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Cosita

True most US women in general cut their hair as the get older. Also most women in high level corporate jobs wear short or medium length. Not long hair.

JenniD
Guest
JenniD

What styles would you have liked to have seen? Super long hair worn out in a top level job like that is probably not practical for the wearer. Many of these woman pull long hours and travel a lot. Aint’t nobody got time for long hair styling sessions in which longer afro textured hair takes.

Veronica
Guest
Veronica

Love this article. There are a couple of things all of these women have in common that need to be noted: 1)The companies they work for are “diverse companies of tomorrow”- a cliche phrase meaning they are actively trying to be inclusive and cater to a diverse population through hiring and promoting diverse peoples. 2) Most of these women have an extensive portfolio to back their credentials. They have worked twice as hard as their peers to prove their worthiness of their positions. 3) In accordance with the above point, most of these women have mastered the unspoken rules of… Read more »

JenniD
Guest
JenniD

I don’t think any of this matters. Its like you are trying to find exceptions. Just wear your natural hair is the point. I think black women over think their hair and how much people are invested in their physical appearance. Make a noise if there is true shade and discrimination not outright, because you cannot read people’s minds. Women are out here hiding in wigs, weaves and straight hair because they assume their hair isn’t professional. If we don’t act like our blackness is normal they never will either.

LBell
Guest
LBell

I could not agree more. And since I’ve already told my story a hundred times online (spent first 9 years of natural life in corporate, 4b hair, wore all kinds of styles including locs, NEVER HAD A PROBLEM) I’ll just say that 15 years into the 21st century I shouldn’t still be hearing about professional naturals like it’s a new and radical thing. What the hell are y’all still scared of?

MommieDearest
Guest
MommieDearest

YAS!!!!! ^5

Kenya L
Guest
Kenya L

I really like that last sentence… and that blackness includes kinky, coily, and/or curly hair.

OXxo
Guest
OXxo

The only people who notice you have natural hair are Black people. The rest are simply not interested. If they are going to discriminate against you your hair has nothing to do with it.

Mala Malum
Guest
Mala Malum

I really enjoyed this article. I certainly need to know more about these ladies!

Char
Guest
Char

Great article. I did notice they all had short or loc’d hair. But then I realised that all of these women are in tough and demanding industries. Quite honestly their hair probably isn’t a priority for them. Keeping is short, in locs and natural keeps it easily manageable and takes up far less time. That is the thing about hair‐ having it long requires time and energy that we don’t always have. Many a woman with very long hair has chosen to cut it all off so as to spend less time on it.

Adía
Guest
Adía

If you look at the women with relaxed hair who are CEOs etc they have short hair too. I think part of it is an age thing too

Ronnie
Guest
Ronnie

I agree Char. I have a very busy life and my girls do too. We all have loose natural hair but I recently put starter locs in my hair and my daughter wants the same in her bra strap length loose natural hair. She has a very busy active school life and social life. She likes to swim, etc and loose natural hair is too much work for us at this juncture. I love loose natural hair, will always love it — my other daughters have their loose natural hair, but once it’s bra strap length and longer like ours,… Read more »

Rose
Guest
Rose

Awesome post.

brlbeleza
Guest
brlbeleza

I am 2years and 8 months post chop and my goal is waist length. However, I’m also finishing a MA in May and excited to begin climbing the corporate ladder like these ladies. I notice no one maintains long hair. So it looks like a black woman executive has to choose…:-( But a very inspiring article all the same. At least I won’t have to relax again–something I never want to do again!

Tee Johnson
Guest
Tee Johnson

After reviewing the comments and from personal experience, being natural in a corp setting, all I have to say is when you excel in the workforce, they have no choice but to accept you. It’s not to say that they are not secretly repulsed by your hair but the hard work rules!

monniej
Guest
monniej

at some point it’s not even about the hair anymore. if you own it they know it comes with the package. ijs…

m2
Guest
m2

Sorry ladies, some natural hair acceptance depends on the people and the org. We do contemplate it more bc we have been discriminated against for less. Each person should analyze the temperament where she works. Different styles maybe ok n others may not. In any event, a professional, non distracting hairstyle is probably ok in any workplace. I’ve seen some that wouldn’t fly. N I think it also depends on your position. As a manager I can’t walk into a room and everyone is distracted by my hair so much that they aren’t listening or taking me seriously.

monniej
Guest
monniej

every one of those hairstyles are “distracting”! that why it’s epic! But, doing you is what this journey is about, so i totally respect where you’re coming from.

Ronnie
Guest
Ronnie

This doesn’t surprise me. From my experience living in a predominantly white area, natural hair choices are not completely invisible, but you really are primarily judged based on other things besides your hair. My daughters’ hair is medium length and natural. They typically wear braid‐outs or twist‐outs or twisted buns. The whole time we’ve lived here, I’ve only known four other students to ask them if they were interested in straightening their hair. One of them was black. My kids said they do notice that girls with very long, straight hair are complimented most heavily but there are young girls… Read more »

monniej
Guest
monniej

I’m adding to this list my beloved endocrinologist, Dr. Stephanie Monica Lucas, that found the possible cancer cells in my thyroid and mentored me through the biggest health crisis in my life! i KNOW she saved me! She may not be a CEO of a major corporation, but she’s a black woman physician with her own thriving medical practice and natural head that i respect and admire! My last visit i got the green light that i’m on a clear path to complete recovery and NO CANCER IN SIGHT! As a celebration i let her feel up my hair and… Read more »

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