LAST summer, I had a conversation with Lesley Riddoch that completely opened my eyes to the progress women in this industry have made in recent years.

“The belief in the BBC was that people didn’t want to hear women’s voices during the day,” the broadcaster told me as she explained how she became one of the first female daytime presenters at the corporation’s Scottish outpost.

I was pretty taken aback. What else did she experience when starting out in journalism?

“When I was in training, if you were going to be a foreign correspondent, you needed to be married,” she told me, matter-of-factly. “That neatly put a block on all sorts of women who wanted, like I did, to be a foreign correspondent.”

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As I sat with my mouth agape, Lesley (below) continued: “This is not ancient. It’s kind of like the late 80s, early 90s.”

The National: National columnist Lesley Riddoch.
Pic Gordon Terris/The Herald

Starting my own journalism career in the 2010s, I certainly never had to worry about being blocked from my dream jobs because of my marital status or a belief that people just didn’t want to have women reporters around.

“Page three girls” were gone before I graduated. There are, generally speaking, no “women’s pages”, with condescending articles about sewing patterns or relationship advice, in newspapers.

For that, I am incredibly grateful for the work of women journalists of decades gone by. They had to fight so much harder than those in my age bracket to be seen as equal and gain proper respect in the workplace.

READ MORE: Structural change needed over lack of women in Scottish political journalism

Lesley’s 1995 Scotswoman edition, which we discussed on that summer day in 2023, was a groundbreaking publication which helped to open those doors for generations to come. With all editorial decisions made by women, it made a huge splash.

With Lesley’s blessing, I have used that special edition as inspiration for this National project. A copy of our pro-independence paper, written, edited and designed by an all-women team, from front page to back. It’s the first time this has been done at a Scottish daily newspaper in my lifetime.

The National: Laura Webster, 4th from left, editor of the National pictured with colleagues...  Photograph by Colin Mearns.7th March 2024.Re International womens day..

While we’re so much further ahead than we were 30 years ago, there are still significant challenges facing women across Scotland, the UK as a whole and around the world.

News in recent weeks about the Emma Caldwell and Sarah Everard cases shows how flawed the justice system is for women and girls. The cost of living crisis sees the most vulnerable women face different issues than men. In Palestine we hear reports of women using scraps of tents as sanitary products as Israel continues its bombardment.

READ MORE: Palestinian activist praises support from Scotland to Gaza

And despite a better industry for women, editorial decisions are still disproportionately made by men. This male-dominated Scottish media means many women’s stories go unheard and unpitched in newsrooms around the country.

This special edition of The National, created by our all-women team, aims to explore some of the biggest challenges facing women today, and celebrate the stories of Scots women’s success. I hope you enjoy reading it to mark this International Women’s Day.