General Question

girlofscience's avatar

Are women with long hair taken less seriously?

Asked by girlofscience (7475 points ) December 16th, 2008

Example of what I mean by long hair.

I had an interesting conversation last night with a 25-year-old chick in the working world. She used to have hair like me (like the picture above), but one day, she looked around the office and realized that no one else had hair like her. She felt that her hairstyle was making her look like she was 18.

She went on to say that when you have a career and long hair, up to a certain age, you just look too young because of it, and beyond that age, you look like you’re trying to look younger than you are. She also said that if she had a supervisor with long hair, it would be difficult to take her seriously.

She was not implying that you had to go totally short, but instead, implying that something like this is more appropriate for a woman with a career.

This kind of depressed me, as I love my long locks and was anticipating having them for many years to come. But of course, I would never want to look foolish or inappropriate.

What do you think?
– What would you consider the maximum age it is appropriate to have the type of long hair pictured above in the first link?
– Do you feel that women with long hair like that are taken less seriously in the working world?

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49 Answers

seekingwolf's avatar

I think women can have long hair and be taken seriously. it’s just HOW they wear their long hair. It needs to be neat, out of the way, and professional. It must not interfere with the women’s job. If they flip it around a lot and act like they are younger, then sure they won’t be taken seriously. But if they wear it professionally, then I see no reason why they wouldn’t be taken seriously.

I have long hair and I love it. I always tie it back when I need to though. Personally, I think it’s awesome when older women have long hair with grey in it. I’d love to have that in the far future!

xgunther's avatar

Great question. But hair should have no impact. If she exerts herself as confident and someone who means business then there should be no problem.

amandala's avatar

I cut my hair my freshman year of high school and still regret it…I’m still trying to grow it out! A woman with long hair can be taken just as seriously as a woman with a shorter haircut. Like seekingwolf said, how you wear it matters more than the actual length. One of the great things about long hair is that you can pull it back, giving the illusion of short hair if it’s a concern.

dynamicduo's avatar

I think the idea is rubbish, honestly. I have long hair (close to twice what is shown in your “long hair” picture, which I would actually describe as “medium hair length”), have always had hair at least the same length as that picture, and will always have long hair as short hair just doesn’t look as good on me. I leave it untied. I do not expect to be discriminated based on my hair length. My hair length or style has no relevance on my capabilities to perform my job. I would never work in a place where hair discrimination was legitimate and expected, as to me that indicates that the employer is not totally focused on succeeding in their area of business, but instead chooses to diddle and muck around with their workers.

What about guys with long hair? I would think that if any person would be discriminated against hair-wise, it would be guys with long hair.

Now, back when women were just being integrated into the workforce, I would say yes hair length discrimination probably did play a role, but that’s because women were being discriminated against anyway. So in that situation, yes having a shorter (or more “boyish”) haircut might have been advantageous towards one’s career possibilities. But in today’s world such discrimination is not palatable in drawing the top talent to work for you.

Don’t be depressed simply cause one person’s opinion is what it is. I’m sure you could just have easily talked to a person with the opposing viewpoint, and still can, and in fact are right now! If you like your hair the way it is, keep it like it is. I seriously doubt you’ll ever face hair discrimination unless, like seekingwolf says, you play around with your hair all day. There is no age where a certain hair style is or is not appropriate. OK, a mohawk hairstyle might not be the best for an investment banker, but I would still do business with them so long as they had a good reputation!

EmpressPixie's avatar

I think it is all about how you wear it as well—for example if I woke up, washed my hair, french braided it, then rolled that up and pinned it? Trust me, you’d have no idea how long my hair actually is. Now, as it stands, I pin it out of the way, usually with the same hair clip, and leave it at that. It looks nice, professional, and no one treats me overly young for it.

They treat me as a youngster because I’m 15 years younger than all of them. And fair enough.

fireside's avatar

Definitely save the pony tails for your boyfriend.

girlofscience's avatar

@fireside: ??

I’m actually wearing a ponytail at work right now. What is inappropriate about ponytails, and why should they be saved for a boyfriend?

I hope you did not make the egregious error of calling pigtails “pony tails”... Two TOTALLY different hairstyles…

fireside's avatar

oops, i’m a guy with short hair.
what can i say?

At least I didn’t tell you to wear a rat tail

girlofscience's avatar

@fireside: So you did mean pigtails?

Ponytails are ok for work, right?

wilson's avatar

Like dynamicduo, my hair is similarly long. I do not colour it at all, even though I am considerably older than a high-school student and grey hair is increasing around my temples and bangs/fringe, ;-D. Not only do I often wear it down, but also regularly style it in a French twist or braid (including the reverse type). I like to be able to wear it differently, too. I haven’t seen many women with my hair length, and do worry that I may be too ‘old’ in some people’s views, but I will probably keep it long.

I think come across professional enough, though, and hope others agree! Oh no! I’m paranoid now!

EmpressPixie's avatar

Ponytails are generally fine for work. They can actually look professional or not, it depends on how you wear them. I’m sure yours is fine.

fireside's avatar

Yeah, I see nothing wrong with pony tails.
Especially if you are a scientist (assuming you don’t contaminate any samples or something like that).

I do see less women with long hair as I get older (only 33), but I think it is more of a maintenance and time-saver thing.

seekingwolf's avatar

@girlofscience

yes, ponytails are generally okay for work. IMO, when I pull my hair back, the “tail” part is lower and hangs down my back. Depends on the person, but I know when I pull up my hair into a “higher” ponytail, I kind of look like a soccer girl IMO, which doesn’t really reflect who I am.

Just wear it so it’s comfortable, neat, and out of the way, and you’ll be fine. ^_^

Fieryspoon's avatar

I know plenty of professional, powerful women who have long hair. In my opinion and experience, you’re safe.

And it doesn’t need to be in a pony tail. My mother wears her long hair down all the time and she’s a very powerful person at her company.

dalepetrie's avatar

Though I wouldn’t discount the idea entirely as it does point to a certain tendency…i.e. I think people have a tendency to see longer hair as an attribute of a younger woman (this is just a cultural ingrained thing that really can’t be helped), which is meant on a purely biological stance to be taken as a sign of virility, not a sign of learned sophistication and great intellect and experience. However one might tend to see an air of sophistication from a purely societal point of view among an older woman with longer hair.

But all that said, confidence and competence overrule all. In the professional world, people who cling to a prejudicial “first glance” modus operandi are not going to make it very far. One has to be able to, particularly in a more professional setting, learn to work with others based on their skill sets, and not on their perceived attitudes. In short, if you know what you’re doing and make it known that you know what you’re doing, you can have no hair or hair down to your kneepits, and no one (at least no one who matters) is going to be able to affect your success. Some might not take you as seriously at first glance, but there are politics in every work settings and the thign you’ll find out about corporate world political bullshit is that it boils down to one thing. There is no reality, only perception. People are going to pre-judge you, but they are not going to able to keep that first impression in their minds forever in a business setting, they are going to have to work with you, ergo they are going to have to trust you to give you a chance to prove yourself. If you can do that (and 99% of the battle isn’t even being competent, it’s being confident enough to come off as competent), you will change those perceptions and it will never be an issue.

augustlan's avatar

First impression: Shorter hair does look more professional. However, I agree with most of what’s been said. It’s completely possible to look professional with long hair…mine was down to my butt for most of my career. It’s also far more important to be professional than it is to look professional.

fireside's avatar

~ Bad hair is definitely a sign of lower intelligence

Perchik's avatar

As a professional guy with long hair (ponytail between my shoulders) I haven’t noticed any animosity. My boss, (who’s quite a bit older than me) also sports a very long ponytail. I don’t think either of us have ever been taken less seriously

scamp's avatar

Hair is only one part of the whole package. As long as it is clean and neat and not some outlandish color or style, it shouldn’t detract from a person presenting themselves as a professional.

My primary car physician has long hair and wears it in a ponytail, and so does my (male) attorney. I’ve never thought any less of either of them because of their choice of hairstyle.

I don’t think you should worry so much about this. If you conduct yourself as a professional, your hair won’t be an issue.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, I have short hair, and I don’t believe I’ve ever been taken seriously!

tinyfaery's avatar

A lot of my job, unfortunately, is looking good when clients come in. My hair is long, and I have yet to get a complaint, whether I wear it down, up, in a ponytail…whatever. I actually look older with my long hair. If I cut the length to anywhere above my collar bones, I look like I’m a well-endowed 14 year old, freckles and all.

Darwin's avatar

If you are worried about it, then put it up in a bun at work, and “let your hair down” at home.

laureth's avatar

I think that younger women tend to wear longer hair, and older women tend to keep it at a mid- or short level. In some businesses, age doesn’t matter and youth can even be an asset – how many exotic dancers have short hair? ;) On the other hand, some people have issues with bosses or authority figures that are younger, and long hair can add to that. I bet that if Hillary Clinton had had long hair before she ran for the nomination, she would have cut it then – but she already had business hair.

For what it’s worth, I think that longhaired guys can have trouble too (outside of a few special fields, like IT or rock star). As much as I lurve the longhaired men, for some reason the rest of the world doesn’t seem to think it looks professional.

Have you ever noticed that to so many men, women come in two types: the long, lusciously-haired sweetie (like Palin) and the ballbusting witch with business hair (like Hillary Clinton)? I think that is, at its simplest, the best argument for short-ish hair being the best for worldly success, and longer hair the best for man-catchin’.

desiree333's avatar

I think the maximum age a women should have long hair would be 27–32. Yes, I think women are taken less seriously when they have long hair rather than the style you showed above. But if you have long hair that you flat iron with your ends cut in a clean sharp line you might still look professional. I guess it all depends on how you wear it, and the style.

seekingwolf's avatar

@laureth actually the 2 professions that I’ve seen a LOT of long-haired dudes in are pediatrics and psychology. But hey, that’s just my observation.

@desiree3333 27–32?? wow that’s not long at all.
I want have long hair for as long as possible. :) I don’t mind taking care of it. I want it to go grey!

tinyfaery's avatar

me too seekingwolf. I can’t wait to have long, silver hair

laureth's avatar

@seekingwolf: That’s cool. Since I don’t have kids or severe personal issues, I haven’t come into contact with too many of those. More power to ‘em, though!

tiggersmom's avatar

This is where I would have a problem really if I could work in the real world. As I am agoraphobic. I would cut my hair for no job, no man, no-thing. I have had long hair all my life, and actually, for any age of woman with long hair, it should be accepted, and is almost expected in Alaska.
When the weather is one of the most intimidating factors to our state, we cherish what warmth we have. I remember one winter growing up, when the temps were so bad here, (coming from a family of 8 we couldn’t afford) my mother told me to wrap my hair around my neck, because I had to walk to school.
I was amazed at how warm I was! But in the summer, it is very hot, being black hair. I usually put it up in a bun, and no one knows how long it is, and then, my husband, ‘loves’ my hair off my neck. There are too many advantages to having long hair, and presenting it to the public. Get creative, love your hair no matter how old you are.

augustlan's avatar

@tiggersmom: Are you Sarah Palin? Alaska, long black hair…just sayin’

Also, just kiddin’

tiggersmom's avatar

f*****************no!!!!!!!!! I am not involved with troopergate.

tiggersmom's avatar

wouldn’t you love it if i was? lmao roff, I hate that woman!

augustlan's avatar

Somehow, if the real Sarah Palin showed up here, I don’t think she’d stay very long ; )

laureth's avatar

It’s one thing to not cut the hair for work if you are allowed the luxury of being able to stay home and be somehow supported. However, if I had to make the choice between long hair and not being able to feed my family, I’d cut the hair.

dynamicduo's avatar

I also can’t wait to have long silver hair… but I’ll probably have a full head of grey hair by the time I’m 30, just like my mum. I already have wisps of grey now. I like it though. I think it’s pretty cool :)

wondersteph's avatar

I work for an attorney who is probably one of the most influential and respected people I know. She’s older (late 50s) and has long hair and I don’t believe it makes any bit of difference. I think her confidence and the knowledge she has overcome any effect image may have.

scamp's avatar

My hair is about an inch below my shoulders, which is the shortest I have ever worn it. I will probably never cut it any shorter than this, and when it turns silcver, I will stop coloring it and go natural.

The women on my Mother’s side of the family have all had very beautiful snow white or silver hair, and if mine looks as good as theirs does, and doesn’t age me too much, I will let it grow out and wear it proudly. Right now, I have to cover up that yucky in between salt and pepper coloring that looks like hell!!

tiggersmom's avatar

@Augustian, I hope you know that I wasn’t being aggressive, and that I was just kidding around with you. I am not Sarah, lol, I am an Native American Indian, Aleut to be more specific, and white, I was fortunate enough to get my mother’s hair, and I love it. Takes a lot of patience to keep long hair, and a lot of discipline to keep it nice looking. I think that really, long hair is a personal preference, and it really shouldn’t matter in the work place how you keep it, as long as it’s presentable. Right? Hope you agree.

baseballnut's avatar

I’m 50, a vice president in an international company and have long (3 inches below shoulders) hair. As long as it’s flattering and clean, I say keep it. I can assure you that I’m taken very seriously in my company and the community and it has nothing to do with my hair. Be yourself – be bold and confident regardless of how you look. I hope we’ve come further than that

pathfinder's avatar

I was dating one girl and she had short hair.I thing that those with longer hair are more on the sight.right.So that one with short hair are smarter than those with a long hairs.

amandala's avatar

@pathfinder: Girls with short hair are smarter than girls with long hair? What? I’ve had both long hair and short hair, and my intelligence level hasn’t changed at all.

resmc's avatar

@amandala That was just a prime example of that weird mental illusion some display sometimes; well, i once met a [member some group one’s either not too familiar with, or one’s mind lumps into a giant borg with a hivemind or its own species] who liked perfume that smelt like mothballs, therefore x group has a horrid sense of smell (for example. And your response to that was awesome, btw :-)

It’s quite depressing that this would even be an issue. Already I know that many women in business dress in a style many find severe, and solely so they’re taken more seriously by their co-workers/bosses. Am not going into business, but it’s unpleasant thinking i may one day be under pressure to change my appearance merely because others are unable to see me as i am, not as some backwards misogynistic stereotype.

@scamp Exactly the same hair about currently having ‘unusually short’ hair (eg slightly past shoulders), by our own [relatively long] standards! Not sure how my length may change as i get past the age where some wouldn’t find long hair acceptable for whatever ridiculous reason… don’t have the face structure to have short hair.

rac424's avatar

Long hair is hot and sexy, but for those women who are uncomfortable with men finding you ultra attractive, a short haircut is a good idea. Women get respect based upon their demeanor, not because her hair looks like a guy’s.

trailsillustrated's avatar

i’m 50 and my hair is almost waist length- when I was working I would put it in a braid. There was the occasional wag that would give it tug when they walked past. I never felt taken less seriously. If I have to go to court or something I put it up.

hollymaria's avatar

Yes, women with long hair are taken less seriously… by everyone, men and women. This applies not just in the “work world” but everywhere. Yes, some men have a fetish about long hair but a fetish does not equal respect (or love, for that matter) in any way shape or form.

I used to have very long hair. I cut it off into a pixie cut years ago and never went back. I noticed a difference IMMEDIATELY in the way people treated me. As a blonde with long hair, people were far more dismissive of what I thought. As soon as I had short hair, and I mean THAT DAY… I noticed that both men and women took me far more seriously. Is it wrong that people have such reactions? Yes. But it happens.

I know that some people here might not what to admit these things… or simply don’t know because they have no experience with it… but it is true. Sorry if this disappoints you. Also, I am in my 20s… if that matters at all. I am in a longterm (4 year) relationship, and to be honest… I get much more positive attention with short hair than I ever did with long. I think that aspect just depends on what a woman can pull off (or not).

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I was enchanted by Meghans waist lengt red hair . As an artist and counselor, grim “professionalism” was never an issue. She wore it at that length primarily because I loved it that way and since she was doing it for me, I helped her withit as much as I could. Washing, drying, brushing her hair were a pleasure and a great turn-on for me. I even learned how to braid it for her, a skill that not many men possess. If I had to venture a guess, long red or black hair tends to coomand more respect than long blonde hair. Of course our society has an unfortunate tendency not to take blondes seriously, as if hair color had something to do with IQ. Personally, I find that long red hair commands respect and is incredibly sexy at the same time.

NuGoonie23's avatar

I think the whole appearance of a woman and how they carry themselves rubs off to how serious another person takes them to be. A woman’s long hair shouldn’t matter, or age, if you can rock it and make it work parallel to who you are on the inside, it shouldn’t be a problem.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

For me, it’s the opposite. I take women with really short hair less seriously because I rarely give them a second look. lol

smellow's avatar

I work for hr in a major corporation and I can say that women in my department are encouraged to cut their hair short and are told in so many words that they are not being taken seriously if they have it long.

Since I’ve started here I have seen 5 different women start. Each with hair from their shoulders to mid-back length. And in each case within 6 months those women have gotten their hair cut to chin length at least.

One of the women is a good friend of mine who is in her early 30’s and had long curly hair. She confided in me that at a conference both the VP and SVP (both short haired women) both suggested that people have been commenting about “all that hair” and that she really should think about her appearance for her career. She was so frazzled over this that she got it all chopped off to her chin. Since then she has done extremely well and is moving up. I’m not really judging this in any way but it definitely seems as though the culture of my company is heavily in favor of short hair on women.

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