A black woman who had applied for a job at luxury British department store Harrods was told she had to chemically straighten her natural hair if she wanted to get the job.
The news comes from a new report into workplace sexism that was published and revealed to Parliament this week, which revealed black women are under pressure to drastically change their natural hair using chemical relaxers or removing braids to make it look “professional”.
The report began after receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home without pay by her boss because she wasn’t wearing high heels. She launched a petition that received over 150,000 signatures and triggered the investigation by the Women and Equalities Committee.
Giving evidence to the Parliamentary committees for Women and Equalities she said, “I have worked in retail before, notably at Harrods. They are really quite bad and I ended up leaving as a result of that.
“In fact, in one of the interview sessions that I attended, the woman who held the interview – who was working for the agency, so Harrods might have diminished responsibility – would go around the room and say, ‘You need a makeover, you need a makeover, you’re fine, you need a makeover’.
“She pointed to a black girl who was being interviewed and said, ‘You can’t work for me unless you have your hair chemically relaxed, because your hair, as is, is not professional enough.’ We just sat there and nodded and agreed because we needed the job. People did what they were told.”