“I’d walk down the hall and get called ‘faggot’ by some folks. That’s the work environment.”
That’s how P&G veteran and LGBTQ activist Michael Chanak remembers working at the company’s Cincinnati headquarters back in the 1980s. Chanak, and a core team of fellow employees, are featured in The Words Matter, a new short film created by P&G and CNN’s Great Big Story, to mark the 25th anniversary of the company including sexual orientation into its diversity policy. It’s a fascinating, challenging, and ultimately heartwarming story that also happens to outline the business case for inclusivity. It’s also refreshingly honest, free of the kind of corporate revisionism one might expect from the world’s biggest marketer.
It’s that honest look at its past that actually makes P&G come off even better, making the film a pretty brilliant piece of brand marketing. But when someone first approached Brent Miller about finding a way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of P&G including sexual orientation in its diversity policy, the associate director of beauty communications didn’t initially see the point.
“I was rather dismissive about it because I just thought, who really cares about an internal anniversary of something like this?” says Miller. “I was so dismissive about it, I actually started to feel guilty. So I started thinking more about it. What was fascinating to me about it is the idea that we had lost the history. Nobody knew it.”
The film essentially chronicles how Chanak worked with a small group of colleagues, over many years, and through many internal struggles, denials, and disappointments, to change company policy towards its LGBTQ employees.