Lucy Hobbs keynote speaker Libby Gill left her corporate career behind to start her own consulting and coaching firm. It wasn’t easy — but her success is testament to the virtue of tireless work and self-belief.

You’ve held top positions in entertainment and media, and you now run your own coaching and consulting business. You’re the very embodiment of Lucy Hobbs. What does the Project mean to you?

The Lucy Hobbs Project gives women a real sense of hope. The top of corporate America is not an easy row to hoe. There’s parity in the workforce, which is now 53 percent female, but it quickly shrinks the higher you go: The numbers
[of women] in the C-suite haven’t changed much in the last 20 years.

What’s the biggest reason for that, do you think?

It’s not an indictment of anyone except the structure of corporate America, which doesn’t allow for caretaking. Women in dentistry, in particular, are healers; they’re helpers. They’ve got the opportunity to go into business for themselves. There’s a lot of fear there, but also so much more freedom and flexibility and power. Eventually, you get those abilities and you can influence others.

What animated your decision to leave the security of your career and go into business for yourself, and what was that transition like?
I had the realization that there wasn’t anywhere else I could go in that career. I asked myself, What do I love to do? The answer was to develop talent, to turn people into superstars. That to me was leadership, and what I lived. There were some hard years, and there weren’t a lot of people to turn to. There were a couple of years when I thought, “Will my phone ever ring again?” I jokingly used to refer to it as working my way down the corporate ladder.

And so now you work to make it easier for women to take those steps, in whatever direction they’re most comfortable with.

Yes. That’s another reason women need to connect: Research shows that men leverage their connections and contacts for specific reasons — endorsements, job recommendations, information. Women leverage their network to build relationships. So we need to let women know that they’ve got this — to give them tools and strategies that they can put into action. What The Lucy Hobbs Project does is tell women we’re shaking things up. Women united like this have a strong voice.

LIBBY GILL is the founder and CEO of Los Angeles–based executive-coaching and consulting firm Libby Gill & Co. The former head of communications for Sony, Universal and Turner Media and a former columnist for the Dallas Morning News, she is an international speaker and author.