Remarkable former Zonta Women in Business Scholar shares her powerful story as an emerging leader

Zonta International's Jane M. Klausman (JMK) Women in Business Scholarship has provided more than US$1.5 million to nearly 500 women from 58 countries.

Holly Ransom, who won a district JMK Women in Business Scholarship in 2010, is a globally renowned content creator, speaker and author.

In June, Holly was featured by Zonta International in a Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories event, a leadership series hosted by Lynne Foley OAM, chairman of the Zonta International Leadership Development Committee.

Holly considers herself a master questioner and says it all started with a remarkable woman's influence in her life—her grandmother.

"I've always said if I can become a fraction of the woman that my grandmother is, I will consider myself successful," Holly said.

It was her grandmother who taught Holly one of her guiding principles—"If you walk past it, you tell the world it's ok"—when she stood up for a young female cashier at the grocery store who was being yelled at by a man.

She emphasized the importance of calling out any form of inequality.

"I think you can have different levels of effectiveness, depending on the circumstance in how you go about pulling it out," Holly said. "Sometimes it's there in the moment, sometimes you're working on a far bigger institutional redesign depending on the nature of what's going on, but find a way to make sure you don't walk past it."

In addition to her grandmother, Holly has also been influenced by educators and colleagues. Early in her life, Holly's teachers pushed her based on her own abilities and potential—instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach—and they also challenged her to learn outside of the classroom and encouraged her to take advantage of extracurricular activities. As she entered professional life, she encountered many people who took her under their wing and provided advice and insights.

"I've been so blessed to be incredibly well mentored and it's one of the things I often say I'm truly grateful for because it's been the single biggest contributor to my growth and development as a person and a leader," Holly said.

However, she is not a proponent of institutional mentoring where companies randomly pair employees for a mentor-mentee relationship.

"I'm very wary of institutional mentoring and I think it needs to be done with the right intention and in the right way, but I think as a tool for assisting with informal learning, mentoring is unbelievably powerful," Holly explained.

In addition to mentors, Holly said she also has people she can talk to when she needs to process things.

"It's become really important knowing who those people are who I can trust that I have values alignment to so when they give me advice, I know it's congruent with my values and they've got my best interests at heart."

It is equally important, Holly said, for people to know what helps break negative thought patterns. For her, exercising and being outside helps her snap out of a bad mood. She has also learned how to manage her energy as opposed to managing her time, and she structures her days and weeks accordingly.

As founder and CEO of consulting firm Emergent, Holly has led real-world results with clients such as P&G, Microsoft, Virgin, Cisco and KPMG. A sought-after speaker, she has interviewed high-profile people such as Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Billie Jean-King and Condoleezza Rice.

Holly was identified early as a dynamic thought leader. She was asked to co-chair the G20 Youth Summit in 2014, the United Nations Coalition of Young Women Entrepreneurs in 2016, and became the youngest director to be appointed to an Australian Football Club. Named one of Australia's 100 Most Influential Women by the Australian Financial Review, Holly has delivered a Peace Charter to the Dalai Lama and was Sir Richard Branson's nominee for Wired magazine's 'Smart List' of Future Game Changers to watch in 2017.

When asked what her greatest gifts as a leader and remarkable woman are, Holly mentioned her insatiable curiosity, her drive to do better and her ability to make people accessible.

"I see myself as a bridge between some of those conversations that happen at far too high-faluting of a level—in a way that's almost intentionally designed to be complex or keep people out—and then making them accessible; because we should all be involved in conversations that matter to us and for us," Holly explained.

In her new book The Leading Edge, Holly helps people harness their own potential to lead by asking better questions, thinking beyond biased answers and building collective momentum for change.

For women to make progress in the next 10 years, Holly said it will be imperative to recruit more people and put pressure on policy decisions being made to build back better after COVID-19.

"I hope we can find the right vehicles to still continue to progress and work together," she said. "This is why organizations like Zonta matter … because those points of light need to help shine a light on areas were there's going to be increasing darkness in the next decade."

She continued: "We need everyone involved in this conversation; it's that evolution of women's rights being human rights. … I think every initiative that we're doing to broaden the tent in terms of who it is that feels both a part of the conversation and responsible for the outcomes of the conversation is absolutely critical."

In closing, Holly thanked Zonta and its members for their support and all they are doing for women worldwide.

"I hope to continue to see Zonta to move onward and upward and to continue to play an important role in the global push for women's rights."

Click here to watch Holly's Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories session.

12 AUGUST 2021