smartwomenbookAuthor, entrepreneur motivates women to make intelligent life changes

By Nicole J. Pickens
November 2009

As a teenager at the High School of Performing Arts in New York, Helene Lerner aspired to be an actress and perform on a grand public stage. Today, she is still a performer of sorts, but she has a different audience – women looking to make significant, positive changes in their lives.

Fueled by an intense passion to motivate and empower, Lerner encourages women on multiple topics, including breaking work-life balance barriers, health and wellness, relationships and building self-esteem. “Women have an incredible amount of strength,” says Lerner, “and what excites me is to see the obstacles that we confront and move past.”

Lerner encountered her own obstacles when she decided to become an entrepreneur. Leaving her comfort zone of corporate America, she made a deal with the School of Media Arts in New York, trading her marketing expertise and counsel in exchange for free tuition to the school’s television production courses and access to its production equipment. During this time, Lerner occasionally toted her then 8-month-old son to and from assignments. In 1994, her perseverance landed her among programs from network powerhouses CNN and ABC when her show “Treating Breast Cancer: A Woman’s Choice” was nominated for a national Emmy.

The first smart risk that Lerner took catapulted her to success. In the past two decades, she has developed more than 20 television specials, launched one of the premier websites for professional women (, and started her own business (Creative Expansions, Inc.). All of this stemmed from a desire to empower women.

Having no formal “skills” to be a writer, Lerner pursued this medium anyway because she wanted her experience to benefit readers. “I am not unique. I hear so many people who have ideas that are so powerful,” explains Lerner. “I listen to so many women – I hear a book in them, and I pull it out.” Her most recent book, “Smart Women Take Risks: 6 Steps for Conquering Your Fears and Making the Leap to Success,” features personal commentary from female executives at Raytheon, Ernst & Young, State Farm and IBM. The six-step program addressed in the book can help individuals determine which risks are worth pursuing.

Part of Lerner’s philosophy is that “no” may just mean “not now.”

“The most important thing that helped create my success was being motivated by wanting to be of service,” says Lerner. When fueled with passion to be of service, you just don’t want to quit, she adds.

Part of Lerner’s inspirational message for women is to encourage them to be more visible in the workplace – to let others know about their successes. “Some of us may have been raised to be nice, like bragging isn’t something we’re supposed to do,” adds Lerner. “But when you own an accomplishment, it’s a way of ‘affirming’ your own power and setting a great example for other people, and allowing yourself to move forward.”

And where did Lerner discover this method of self-affirmation? From a male boss. “I saw him constantly introduce himself to new people and rattle off his accomplishments. I used to look at him with amazement, but now I can do that.”

Lerner’s bottom-line goal is to coach women to strive for achievements that truly make a difference and avoid overwhelming themselves with obstacles that will always exist. In her eyes, all women – from stay-at-home moms to top executives at Fortune 500 companies – are strong and capable of conquering any challenge that comes into their path.

Nicole J. Pickens is a part-time freelance writer. She resides in Richmond, Texas.