By Bärí a. Williams5 minute Read
Most people have a vision of what being professional is, the attire, and the image that accompanies the designation. Once upon a time, it meant skirts only for women, and tailored suits and ties for men. Interoffice relations included the unspoken but enforced in-office rule was to always smile and be pleasant, and avoid any controversial topics like race, religion, and finances.
As the workplace evolved, so did the definition of professional attire and image. Business casual was acceptable with a more relaxed dress code and more casual banter. But the definition of “professionalism” remained the same for people in marginalized groups. For Black women it meant making sure our hair was straight, no natural hair or protective styles. Our outfits had not one blemish or wrinkle, and personal topics were avoided. One slight misstep would render that “professional” label null and void. The norms of the workplace may have relaxed, but we could not.