(Associated Press) Jeanne Thompson began going gray at 23. She colored her hair for years as she worked her way into management at a large Boston-area financial services company, then gave up the dye about a year ago.
The earth didn’t shake, and the 44-year-old Thompson was promoted to top management the following year.
She is among a new type of gray panther, a woman who aspires to do well and get ahead on the job while happily maintaining a full head of gray.
“Women put pressure on themselves to color,” the Exeter, N.H., woman said. “It’s a bold statement to be gray because it’s saying, ‘You know what? I did let my hair go, but I’m not letting myself go.’ People take me more seriously now. I never apologize for the gray hair.”
But not everyone finds it so easy.
Laws, of course, exist to ward off discrimination in the workplace, yet legions of men and women have no interest in letting their gray fly. Not now, when the struggling economy has produced a stampede of hungry young job-seekers.
In 1950, 7% of women colored their hair, she said. Today, it’s closer to 95% or more, depending on geographic location.
Sandra Rawline, 52, in Houston knows how complicated it can be.
A trial is scheduled for June in her federal lawsuit accusing her boss at Capital Title of Texas of ordering her to dye her gray hair in 2009, when her office moved to a swankier part of town. The suit accuses him of instructing her to wear “younger, fancier suits” and lots of jewelry, according to the Houston Chronicle.