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Do Redheads Have More Fun in the Workplace?

Hair Color and Workplace Professionalism

Every once in a while I read a survey about workplace attributes and behavior that gives me pause. This is the case with a new study from Australia that basically concludes good grooming in the workplace can make the difference between having a successful career and not. Red hair is considered the least professional hair color in the workplace.

According to the study,

  • 73% of people say a person's hair is factor when judging professionalism
  • Red is considered least professional hair color
  • The study was done in Australia, where Prime Minister Julia Gillard is a redhead
  • Women with loose hair much less 'proficient' than those with it tied up
  • 62% of women say they perform better at work when they look good

This is not a joke. It is not April Fools’ Day. It is, however, a sexist survey better fit for the 15th to 18th century than 2013.

Australian etiquette expert Anna Musson, Founder of Good Manners Company, a blonde by the way (go figure), believes that if we're serious about our jobs then personal grooming must be a high priority.

"It is possible that management, who see you briefly in meetings, have formed a completely incongruous opinion of your professionalism, based on the effort you have put into grooming," Musson says. "We make the assumption that a person who puts effort into their appearance also puts effort into their work. We believe if a person is disciplined in one area, they are disciplined in many. These are the people we hire in our businesses, we promote them, we reward them and we have high expectations of them because of the perception they are more capable."

Musson concludes that the findings show it certainly makes a case for spending more time in front of the mirror each morning, and paying better attention to what we wear.

As a researcher and writer I decided to delve into this topic a bit further and want to share some interesting observations in society and facts about redheads. According to Redhead Handbook: A Fun and Comprehensive Guide to Red Hair and More (Yes, there is such a book) by Cort Cass, people who are natural redheads inherit their hair color from genetic traits passed down from both parents. Since red hair is a recessive trait, both parents must have a red hair gene to pass down in order to have red-haired children. People who do not have red hair but carry the gene, pass it down to their children.

There are fewer than 4 percent of redheads in the world and more redheads are found in the United Kingdom than the United States, according to Marion Roach, author of The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair. Yet, despite their small numbers, throughout history red hair has attracted and repelled, inciting emotions from awe to fear and condemnation.

Throughout history, people with red hair have experienced persecution in various forms. During the height of the 16th and 17th century witch trials in Europe, red hair was considered a mark of witchcraft and red-haired women were put to death. In The Ginger Survival Guide: Everything the Redhead Needs to Cope in a Gingerist Cruel World (seriously?), author Tim Collins notes that some Renaissance paintings depicted Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus, with red hair. The misconception of red-haired people continues to this day. Natural redheads are sometimes stereotyped as being highly sexual and hot-tempered. I have no experience on this matter to voice my opinion.

Perhaps redheads should become comedians. After all, both Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, two of the most famous comedians, are redheads.

Blog posted by Steven  Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on June 17, 2013