#MeToo speaks the languages of the world

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Written By Madeline Shaw

Pick a country or capital city on the globe. Add me #MeToo in search and you will find that the global phenomenon is everywhere, connecting billions of people who want change. But where does change come from?#MeToo around the globe

When the #MeToo disruption first took off, no one could have anticipated the international response. Trending of the original hashtag or a translation of it occurred in 85 countries. But this was much more than a social media exchange. Not everyone has a smartphone or the safety to speak freely. Change is unfolding in different ways in different places.

A quick search on Senegal, Mongolia, Bucharest and Shanghai reveals each of these very different places has its own stories of #MeToo.

This could be women posting their stories, conversations beginning and sometimes even perpetrators being revealed and action being taken. It’s probably true to say that #MeToo has traversed the globe.

What Next?

Like any movement for change, #MeToo prompts the questions, “What next?”, “What now?” and “When?”

A common hope is that governments, politicians and lawmakers will take the big steps necessary to bring systemic changes to make respect for women a true reality.

The President of South Korea, Mr Moon Jae-In, has been one of the first to do just that – promising to eradicate gender discrimination and gender violence and initiating legislative changes to that end. He is one of few leaders to embrace the campaign fully, act quickly and make lasting changes.

In many countries change is happening not through government action but in corporations, government departments and businesses.

While the wheels of government turn slowly, workplaces have more freedom to move. They can respond to the #MeToo movement independently and quickly.

What does #MeToo mean for workplaces?

In China, the first workplaces to step up have been university spaces. Women have spoken up about assaults against them. Ms Luo Qianqian was first, speaking out about sexual assault by a professor who was her Doctoral supervisor at Beihang University in Beijing.

Her courage motivated other women to speak out about gender discrimination and sexual assault, putting pressure on universities to initiate investigations and policy changes.

In Australia, The Financial Review has provided regular coverage of the changing landscape of awareness of sexual harassment in the corporate sector and highlighting the work that needs to be done, including encouraging awareness, creating change and training.

However, recent research undertaken by the University of South Australia, University of New South Wales and Colombia University found that workplaces are slow on the uptake. From a survey of 1004 Australian organisations and 321 American organisations, it can be seen that Americans are on the plot with sexual harassment training and Australian businesses are not.

 Only 58% of the Australian businesses currently provide training compared with 91% of the American. The researchers have called on Australian businesses to allocate more funding for training.

Has your workspace experienced a #MeToo transformation yet?

The #MeToo movement has already shown us that sexual harassment exists across many workplaces and industries, including entertainment, journalism, politics and sport.

While workplaces may be slow to take up the call for reform, the opportunity is there for fast moving change if we instigate it or demand it. The #MeToo movement gives women and the men who support it a voice that employers now have to listen to, even if their motivation is commercial.

What about your workplace? Is it time for a makeover? Beginning a conversation is the first step and it doesn’t have to be with the boss. It could be by the coffee machine with a co-worker. #MeToo has shown us that one small step can make the difference. 

Have a look at this checklist to check what is happening in your own workplace and be inspired to suggest, demand, instigate or insist. Women everywhere are doing just that!