Growing up between Minneapolis and Cairo, Egypt, Ayah Helmy saw how different life could be depending on where someone lived.
“I could see that things weren’t equitable,” she said. “I didn’t understand things being made difficult for someone not based on merit.”
Throughout her law career, Helmy has used her own experiences as a woman of color and a first generation law student to assist her corporate clients with their legal needs, but also to increase their diversity and inclusion efforts.
Because their size and reach means that government and large companies set the tone for how society operates, Helmy wants to work with them to bring more diverse voices into their ranks at all levels. It makes sense, she said.
“You will have a higher profit and a higher yield when you have different types of people in the room,” she said.
Helmy embraces her work on diversity, equity and inclusion as a way to pay forward the mentorship and help she’s received.
“I had people reaching back to pull me up with them, helping me navigate the world as a young attorney,” she said. “I had so much help; there’s nothing more obvious to me to be doing than paying it forward.”
Part of her giving back is teaching at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and at the University of Minnesota. What advice does she offer her students about how to navigate both their careers and life in general?
“Find your community; find the people who will help you find joy, celebrate your successes and mourn with you when things don’t go well,” she said. “Also, and this is hard, realize that you can’t change the whole world. Make your corner of the world better. If we all did that then over time we’d have a real impact.”
Helmy’s future includes continuing her work and encouraging others in their efforts.
“I want to continue to work in corporate legal work and bring an equity lens to every decision that’s made there,” she said.
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