Carrie Gracie was the BBC's China editor for several years. Like most of her female colleagues, she recently discovered she was paid less than her male equivalents and decided to take on her bosses in public. She resigned from that post, refused to take hush money and stirred up a massive, collective rebellion at the corporation. Yesterday she gave evidence to the digital, culture, media and sports select committee. Calm, principled and steely, she filleted her bosses who looked dazed through it all. They thought they could neatly 'manage' the situation. They couldn't. They thought they could discredit Gracie. They only augmented her reputation.

I was watching this unmissable drama at the gym where I bumped into a male BBC producer of a certain age. He was aghast: "This is unladylike, unnecessary, un-BBC. We are a family. We don't wash dirty linen in public. Nothing will ever be the same. Glad I'm retiring." Me too.

In his own clumsy way, this bloke, let's call him Stan, explained how such injustice could have gone on for so long. Unjust, unwritten expectations maintained the status quo: real women don't ask for equal pay; families keep their secrets and lies. Not any more, gentlemen.

As Stan laments, nothing will be the same. Not at the BBC, not in parliament, not in the public or private services. Formula 1 Grid Girls – decorative, beautiful things who gave the events a seductive air- are gone! Various firms are lining up to say sorry, make promises that it will all be sorted by 2020. No more men only dinners with scantily dressed, proffering females.

Companies and government departments are being made to release their pay scales. Phase Eight, which makes its money from women's fashions pays its male employees 65% more per hour than its female staff. (Not shopping there anymore.) Some of the large financial services companies also have unacceptable pay gaps. Even the Department of Transport pays women less than men for similar jobs. They can no longer be blasé and hope this furore will quieten down.

Harvey Weinstein
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Oscars in Hollywood, in February 2017. Reuters

This a genderquake, with tremors spreading across the west. To think it all began with allegations of horrendous sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood. According to several young actresses, this powerful man did what he wanted and felt he could get away with it. And he did, for the longest time. Once this broke out, females of all backgrounds found courage to speak up about their own victimisation by males in positions of authority and those who think females are always available or must be.

Women and girls found the words, they found the nerve, they found themselves and freed themselves from the codes of silence and propriety. Some of the accusations may turn out to be false or imagined. Some of those who suffered may never get justice. But I wager most of the complainants are now better equipped to repel advances and disrespectful attention. They feel the strength of numbers. Men too will be more wary and perhaps finally understand that girls and women are not lesser things, not their possessions, not meat, not sex toys or masturbation machines.

The aftershocks following the naming and shaming of sex pests have shaken up everything. Women and girls are now acutely aware of continuing male dominance over their lives at home and at work. An 80-year-old woman, Edith wrote to me this week, She was a professional ballet dancer in her younger days: "Why did we let men do such things? I said nothing when choreographers caressed me and even slapped me, when my husband insisted on sex every night. They never saw or heard me. When I became a college teacher it was the same. I thought It was the way it had to be. You girls have opened my eyes."

It is fitting that this revolution is happening now, the hundredth year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, to be marked on 6 February. Parliament gave the vote to some women for the first time. Universal suffrage came ten years later. Carrie Gracie is our Emily Pankhurst. She may not know it herself, but she has instigated another historic, feminist transformation.

Those old suffragettes were hated and vilified. So too our new champions who also have to survive online terror. Retro boys at the Spectator bluster on about this being a "middle class" campaign by spoilt women; anti-feminist women are letting rip about the "new tyranny" and "puritanism." Best to let them vent. These reactionaries cannot stop the non-violent revolution that is now underway.

Don't expect it to be easy. Those who strive for civil and human rights know the journey is arduous, sometimes impossible. But there is no turning back now. Our daughters and granddaughters must live in a safer and more equal world. We will get there.