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Gold Coast women who #choosetochallenge – Marion Charlton

Natalie O’Driscoll | April 26, 2021

Gold Coast Airport Chief Operating Officer Marion Charlton with band Sheppard for a runway concert

We talk to five Gold Coast women who embody the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day.

This International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. So what does that mean? A challenged world is an alert world. We can all choose to make the world a better place by challenging and calling out gender bias and inequality. These high profile Gold Coast women do just that, whether it’s through their businesses, direct action, personal efforts or some combination of all three. Hear Marion’s story.


Marion Charlton – Chief Operating Officer, Gold Coast Airport

Marion has more than 30 years of experience in the aviation industry both domestically and abroad, and is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of Gold Coast Airport. She is also currently on the advisory board for Southern Cross University Business School and is on the board of trustees for the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Foundation, and is also a member of the Study Gold Coast board.

Tell us about a woman that has inspired you to push the boundaries in your life or career.

So many women continue to inspire me for different reasons, but I must call out Annabelle Chaplain AM in this space, not only for what she has achieved in her own personal life and career, but for her support and advocacy for women in general. Annabelle was Chair of Queensland Airports Ltd for five years from 2014 and right from the start she evoked positive change within our organisation from a gender perspective. She was vocal, generous with her time and pushed me personally to question and challenge myself. I will be forever grateful to Annabelle and women like her who walk the walk in this space.

Do you have any advice for women wanting to become more involved at senior levels in foundations or on boards?

Irrespective of your background I believe that if becoming a senior executive, C Suite or Board level in in your sights, then you should attain some form of finance qualification. I have an operational background so for me, that meant when I did my MBA with SCU in 2015, I focussed on Corporate Accounting and Finance subjects. There are other paths of course, but this would be my number 1 tip to be ready for these types of roles. Secondly, ensure your workplace is aware of your ability and ambition. Women often believe that if they work hard they will get noticed and promoted. But if we don’t ask, the assumption might be made that we are happy where we are. It can be a little uncomfortable until you get used to it, but put yourself out there.

This year’s IWD theme is #ChooseToChallenge. How do you choose to challenge social norms, expectations of women and / or gender inequality in your life?

I believe that it is difficult to be what you can’t see. It is important to me that young women can see themselves doing whatever they aspire to including raising a family while being the Chief Operations Officer of an airport. Coming through the operational side of airports in the 80s and 90s women leaders were few and far between. Like many women in these circumstances, I felt I had to work harder and longer to prove myself. I was however inspired by Julieanne Alroe who went on to be the CEO of Brisbane Airport. I hope that in some small way, I can provide similar aspiration for the women in our industry.

How will you celebrate International Women’s Day this year?

The Gold Coast Airport is part of Queensland Airports Pty Ltd (QAL) which also owns and operates Townsville, Mount Isa and Longreach airports. We have a range of celebrations including hosting an IWD morning tea which will take place simultaneously across all our ports and streamed via Teams.  Our QAL CEO will speak on the day about what IWD and #ChooseToChallenge means to him and we have a couple of brilliant guest speakers, female engineers in a male dominated industry, who are prepared to share their personal journeys with our team.  IWD has gone from strength to strength within our organisation and is a key fixture on our annual calendar.

Marion awarding winners of the ‘name the crane’ competition
Marion Charlton
Marion with Gold Coast Airport Ambassadors Marie Mills and Brett Morris

Read about other Gold Coast women who embody the theme of this year’s international women’s day.


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