Ailsa McKay thought that economics has much to offer the world, but its true value continues to be dwarfed by the failure of mainstream economics to reflect women’s roles, particularly the unpaid work they do. She worked with great wit, energy and enthusiasm to stop people being deceived by economists and argued for a more equal and just society, supporting students, women in communities and policy makers to understand how economics could work much better for equality and be a force for good.
As a founding member of the Scottish Women’s Budget Group, she argued against the gender blind decision making that still dominates public policy and for gender aware policy and budgetary decisions, in Scotland and internationally. She did more than anyone to push for the kind of gender aware budget statement that the Scottish Government now produces, but she always recognised that this was just a first small step – once budgetary decisions were truly gender responsive, it should be transformative and not just a statement of intent, however gracefully done.Ailsa was also a passionate advocate of another transformative and radical idea, a citizen’s basic income, because of its great potential to meet the needs of women more effectively than the existing social security system that does not recognise or value unpaid work or the penalties that women face for bearing children. Even when she became ill, Ailsa was pushing forward for a fairer society and promoted to the Scottish Government the economic benefits of universal childcare free at the point of delivery. She presented her ideas at a Scottish TUC women’s weekend school just four days before she died.
Economists who do their work as if people really matter are rare, particularly those who recognise the value of the contributions that women and men make in all their diversity. In the passing of Ailsa McKay, Scotland lost one of her best, truly a disruptive force for good.
Ailsa is survived by her husband Jim and children, Rory and Annie.