Thousands of women in Lausanne, Switzerland demand an end to sexual harassment along with equal pay during a nationwide women's strike June 14.

A global moment for the #MeToo movement

World leaders have a chance to enact a pact against sexual harassment in the workplace. Even debating the issue reveals a revolution in thought about respect and equality for all.

The #MeToo movement may finally have found its global moment.

On Thursday, world leaders at the International Labor Organization in Geneva will vote on a proposed agreement aimed at ending sexual harassment in the workplace. Enforcement of such agreements can be notoriously weak. And it is not clear whether the final pact will be legally binding or hold companies responsible for harassment by an employee. Still, the fact that a United Nations agency feels compelled to address gender-based harassment reflects a revolution in attitudes.

One in three countries still has no laws protecting women or men from workplace harassment. Even in the United States, both laws and company practices remain a work in progress more than three decades after the Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Part of the global struggle lies in the problem of depicting women as potential victims in the workplace yet also empowering them to flourish. Punitive laws are not enough. Even company policies and training seminars are seen as inadequate. Company culture must reflect the values of respect and equality, starting from the top. The fastest route to such a values shift lies in hiring more women and promoting them to leadership positions.

In fact, the “feminization” of society, or the rise of influence for women, is one reason for a centurieslong decline in violence of all kinds, according to Harvard scholar Steven Pinker. The pacifism often associated with women helps reduce a tendency to settle scores or achieve an ambition by force.

In his latest book, “Enlightenment Now,” Mr. Pinker points to qualities of character that have helped drive progress at the global level. Human nature, he writes, “contains the seeds of its own improvement, as long as it comes up with norms and institutions that channel parochial interests into universal benefits.”

This week, the ILO may make history by setting a new global norm on sexual harassment. New or tougher laws will help. But it is the shift in thought that counts, especially if it lifts everyone in the workplace.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A global moment for the #MeToo movement
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today