WHEN we think of women in the 21st century, as well as mothers, sisters, friends, we think world leaders, politicians, international footballers, journalists, and scientists developing vaccines for diseases like Covid-19.

Women in Scotland have not always been thought of or recognised in this way. Throughout history, women have had to fight against society’s ideas of what a woman should be, and the role women should play. As recently as the 1970s women were regarded as the property of a husband, ridiculed for thinking it was possible to not only run for election, but win. The idea of a woman leading the country was laughable.

The Open University/BBC Scotland co-production The Women Who Changed Modern Scotland (BBC Scotland, 10pm tonight), a three-part series presented by Kirsty Wark, explores how women have had to fight against deeply traditional, and often misogynistic attitudes over the last 50 years, attitudes which have often repressed them and their ambition.

In the series, we highlight women, many well-known, others with untold stories, who have helped shape modern Scotland – its laws, its politics, its culture, its workforce. These are all women who have faced great struggles, from the early disruptors of second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and early 1970s to those leading modern politics and society today.

With the emergence of the women’s movement in Scotland from the 1970s, the society, norms and attitudes that men had made were being challenged by women. Women were no longer to be relegated to roles focussing on childcare and domestic chores.

Rising equality, and women taking up leadership positions in Holyrood and Westminster, as well as in Scottish organisations such as Engender, Zero Tolerance, Women’s Aid, and Rape Crisis Scotland meant more significant change by the 1990s. Women were beginning to reshape a society which consistently demonstrated misogyny in the news, across social spaces, and in everyday life.

The prominence of women at the highest policy and government levels in Scotland across the 2000s has been integral to putting serious social issues affecting women as political and social priorities.

Much has been achieved in responding to and tackling violence against women and girls in Scotland. The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 is recognised worldwide as the "gold standard" of legal responses to domestic violence. Other women’s issues, including period poverty and recent hate crime reforms, have also seen progress.

Women are now prominent in all walks of Scottish society, but the costs are still high. Abhorrent abuse on social media against women has a profound impact, with prominent politicians quitting frontline politics because of its toll. Threats to women are still prevalent, with policing facing a crisis of trust given widely acknowledged discrimination, violence, and misogyny.

These are consistent barriers. Women continue to fight for their rights, to protect themselves from violence, and to secure representation. As we move towards International Women’s Day on March 8 and we celebrate progress, much is still to be done.

Dr Kim Barker, Senior Lecturer in Law in The Open University’s Faculty of Business and Law, helped curate two Open University films, Why Don’t More Women Go into Politics? and What are the Benefits of More Women in Politics? which feature interviews with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other voices across the political spectrum. See https://connect.open.ac.uk/