Procter & Gamble is exploring its crusade for equality with the launch of a short film that exposes the torment LGBTQ+ employees were subjected to in the early 1990s.
"Out of the Shadows," made in partnership with CNN, Courageous Studios and BMW, follows a group of gay and lesbian employees at P&G in Cincinnati who banded together to fight for equality in their workplace.
"I was so scared that the powers that be at P&G would find out that I’m gay that for seven years, in addition to lying by omission about my lifestyle, I manufactured a wedding and a husband," said one employee who wanted to remain anonymous. "That, of course, resulted in a very tangled web of lies and my energy was totally focused on maintaining the lies. I had ulcers, paranoia and a total loss of self-esteem."
While P&G was one of the first Fortune 500 companies to add "sexual orientation" to its equal employment opportunity statement in 1992, the company’s leadership was conservative, and fellow employees were openly homophobic.
"You want to talk truth? There were guys who were very powerful at Procter and only got more powerful who didn’t want to give equal rights to the LGBTQ community. We didn’t deserve it," said Susan Arnold, retired vice chairman at P&G. "It wasn’t like they were planning to do anything different once they got the words in. There was no program or policy that I remember that went with it."
Delaine Adkins, a section manager, said that "it actually got worse in that time," adding, "If I walked into a lady’s restroom, people would walk out. If I sat down at one of the long lunch tables, they would get up and leave."
In 1993, Cincinnati passed Article XII, an amendment that prevented any laws aimed at protecting gays and lesbians. It was a hostile environment and a difficult time for employees to openly be themselves. Still, the group, which called itself GABLE, persisted.
Slowly but surely, they found allies, educated their colleagues and won big victories, including benefits for domestic partners.
Today, GABLE has 5,000 members in more than 50 countries, and P&G is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly companies in the world.
This story first appeared on campaignlive.com.