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University of Lincoln student wins ‘UNiDAYS Student Woman of the Year’ prize for campaign against skirt bans in school

Grace Okon, Brand Marketing Executive
  • Madeleine Pownall, 20, from Leeds, wins £2,000 as UNiDAYS Student Woman of the Year
  • The student’s campaign against the banning of skirts in schools was praised by judges
  • Pownall beat 2,300 people to the accolade

A student at the University of Lincoln has beaten 2,300 people to be crowned the UNiDAYS Student Woman of the Year. Madeleine Pownall, 20, from Leeds, was recognised for her Skirts in Schools campaign, which highlights the danger of banning girls from wearing skirts and forcing them to wear trousers.

UNiDAYS, the world’s leading student affinity network, awarded Madeleine the £2,000 prize after the judging panel was impressed by her efforts to empower women. Madeleine, currently reading Psychology, founded Skirts In Schools in 2016. It’s a campaign group that fights against the banning of skirts in schools after her own school banned skirts, which she believes is unfair and reaffirms the idea that women are simply there as objects to be gazed upon.

Madeleine believes that everyone should have the right to outwardly express their gender identity. Branding school skirts as 'inappropriate' and 'distracting for male teachers' sexualises young girls and leads to entrenched body anxieties.

In addition to the campaign, which has been covered in several top publications, Madeleine runs a blog – Thought Bubbles – and is a writer for The Psychologist magazine.

Madeleine said: “I’m delighted to have won this award, which will give me a wider platform to educate and motivate other young women. All too often, women’s voices and achievements go unrecognised, so it’s great to have won a competition that celebrates the incredible things that student women across the UK have accomplished.”

Madeleine has used the cash prize to attend a conference on women and equality, where she will be presenting. The conference, which addresses female stereotypes, inequality and gender, will help Madeleine as she looks to start her PhD at the University of Leeds in September.

Panel judge Mai Fenton, EMEA Marketing Director at UNiDAYS, said: “The competition for Student Woman of the Year was fierce, and it was inspiring to read the stories of so many young women. Madeleine’s passion really stood out for us, and we hope she continues to inspire other women to fight for equality.

“At UNiDAYS, we realise that despite the progress made when it comes to gender equality, female graduates still earn less than their male counterparts, and that just isn’t fair. In launching this campaign in association with Missguided, we wanted to empower student women to shout about their amazing achievements and feel empowered in celebrating themselves and their fellow women.”

The judging panel was made up of Mai Fenton, UNiDAYS Marketing Director EMEA, Nicola White, Missguided’s Head of Affiliates, Tamara Castelli, UNiDAYS Head of Data and Insights, Situl Bains, UNiDAYS Global General Counsel, and Phoebe Gormley, Founder of Savile Row Tailors Gormley & Gamble. The panel choose four runners up, each of whom won a £100 cash prize plus £100 to spend online at Missguided.

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