Our Women To Watch – The Young COO

With so many talented women in our corner at The Star, we weren’t content to confine our International Women’s Day celebrations to the 8 March – so we’re declaring this The Star’s women’s week. To mark it, meet our women to watch in 2021. 

We’re proud of the many strong, creative and fierce women who represent The Star, not least among them the leaders shaping our business. At an age where most of us have just stumbled out of our twenties into some semblance of adulthood, Jessica Mellor had already held the title of CEO, GM and COO. 

In 2019, Jessica became both the youngest-ever and first female Chief Operating Officer of The Star Gold Coast. In 2020, she was recognised as The Australian Financial Review’s Young Executive of The Year. On the eve of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Jessica to find out what she’ll accomplish in 2021.

Jessica Mellor
Jessica Mellor

The theme of International Women’s Day 2021 is ‘Choose to Challenge’ – in what ways do you challenge the status quo every day?

Sometimes it’s the small things that surprisingly challenge the status quo – I think in my case it’s having a very human approach in a world that is traditionally very corporate. Exposing your vulnerability can make an enormous difference when it comes to connecting with team members and guests alike. I try my best to create an enabling environment built on trust and accountability that gives people confidence in what you’re doing as a leader, while also showing enough vulnerability to create and develop connections. It doesn’t sound like much but can be very powerful in terms of creating a culture of acceptance and promoting diversity – of thought, opinions, gender, ethnicity and beliefs.

How have you seen barriers come down for women in your industry?

My observation is that many of the women in our industry are incredibly competent high achievers. I think there’s a toughness and resilience that’s required to break through in a traditionally male-dominated space, and their ability to do that has paved the way for other women to establish themselves and make a real impact. It has to come from the top, and at The Star, the genuine focus on diversity and inclusion has meant that our team can see that the change is real and I feel very fortunate to be part of that story. I’m glad that young women coming into the industry and our workforce can strive for executive roles because they see other women, including myself, doing it too.

If there was one person you could sit down with for a coffee, who would it be and what would you talk about?

Probably Louis Theroux (the documentary filmmaker). I’m so intrigued by people, their behaviour and what drives them. Based on all the weird and wonderful people that he would have met throughout his career, I’m sure he would have a very well-rounded view of humanity – all the good and all the bad! I’d love to hear his stories of the best and worst he’s seen. I often say I could write a book on all the things I’ve heard and seen throughout my career in this industry, but his experience would be that on a universal scale!

What mark do you dream of leaving on the world?

It probably goes against common public perceptions but as a ‘casino boss’ I always hope to leave people better than I found them. When I look at what’s holding my team back, I see so much potential locked up behind doubt and negative self-talk – particularly in women. I try to make our workplace as authentic, fun and relaxed as it can be so that people can leverage their strengths and find a path that helps promote self-belief. When people are confident and relaxed, I think they bring their best selves to work, which helps us deliver the best possible experience for our guests. If we can help our guests create lasting memories, and a sense of connection, then I think that’s an incredibly fulfilling purpose. It’s kind of existential, but what is a life but a collection of memories? I love that we can be a part of creating those.

What challenge are you most excited about taking on in 2021?

2020 really put things into perspective – I learned a lot about managing uncertainty (if there is such a concept) and building resilience. I’m hopeful that these lessons help me respond to the challenges that are no doubt ahead in 2021 in a more open-minded, positive and strategic way. Operating our business under the cloud of the pandemic is no easy feat, but we have a lot of exciting projects being rolled out in 2021, as well as preparing for The Dorsett hotel to open, and welcoming our first permanent residents to the island when The Star Residences is completed. Some of the apartments in The Star Residences will also become available for short stay letting through The Star, which will allow our guests to enjoy everything our island has to offer from the comfort of their own apartment. Managing change of this magnitude, building the right team and thinking through all the possible issues and outcomes is exactly the kind of project I love to tackle, so I think 2021 is going to be one of my best years yet!

Check out “Our Women To Watch” series: