Co-op director Margaret Casely-Hayford is Coventry University’s first woman chancellor

The respected lawyer says she wants universities to overcome the town vs gown divide and work with their communities

A board member of the Co-op Group, and former director at the worker-owned John Lewis Partnership, has become the first female chancellor at Coventry University.

It’s the latest in a long line of achievements for Margaret Casely-Hayford, who is the first black woman in the UK to be made a partner in a City law firm.

Ms Casely-Hayford is also chair of international development charity Action Aid UK, and co-manages rap artist Kelvyn Colt.

Margaret Casely-Hayford praised Coventry’s commitment to diversity

At Coventry, where she takes over from former BAA and Land Rover chief executive Sir John Egan, she will lead the university’s work on corporate responsibility, social mobility and community engagement.

She said: “Coventry is an energetic university which dares to be different and where social mobility and inclusion complement a truly entrepreneurial spirit.

“It shares my commitment to equality of opportunity and I will be shouting out Coventry’s message that a university can be world-class while admitting talented students from a range of backgrounds.”

She added: “Helping people reach their potential and seize opportunities is more important than ever before as today’s graduates emerge into a highly competitive global marketplace.

“I am chair of Action Aid UK, a charity which aims to get some of the poorest people in the world out of poverty, and which considers feminism as having the power to help make that happen.

“Feminism is really about creating this equality of opportunity for everyone, including young men who are underrepresented at all levels of education.

“The role that Coventry plays in raising ambition and skill levels in our communities is one step to achieving that level playing field and it is wonderful to see how staff here empower students and give them the confidence they need to succeed.”

She added that she was keen to help the university continue to develop its efforts to establish and support businesses.

She told the Times that universities should work to overcome the town vs gown mentality and find ways to engage with their communities to improve workers’ skills, create marketing hubs and support local businesses.

“We go out to third world countries to teach about education and offer skills training,” she told the newspaper. “Why don’t we give this to our own adults in our communities?”

Ms Casey-Hayford was appointed as a member nominated director of the Co-op Group in May last year, and sits on the Remuneration Committee.

She was director of legal services for the John Lewis Partnership from 2006 – 2014 and on the board of the British Retail Consortium for four years to 2014.

Her career began with a law degree at Oxford University, and was called to the bar in 1983. She joined Denton Hall Law Firm (now SNR Denton) four years later and was made partner in 1998.

She has also served as a non-executive director of NHS England, and sits on on the Metropolitan Police Oversight Panel to investigate corruption.

Ms Casely-Hayford also champions the representation of young people, women and ethnic minority groups on boards of directors and chairs the advisory board of Ultra Education, working to develop young entrepreneurs.

In 2014, she was named Black British Business Person of the Year.

 

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