When Helene Mathieu passed the Quebec bar in 1994, the young Canadian woman could have stayed in her home country and practiced law, but she aspired for more. Two weeks after passing the bar Helene Mathieu flew to Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates that she had never been to before, and accepted a job offer that would change the course of her legal career.

Helene Mathieu’s small French Canadian family knew as little about Dubai as she did. But after Christmas that year she left for her new home to embark on the next step of her career.

A very fulfilling life, rich in good fortune, quickly began to grow in Dubai for Helene Mathieu. Three days after arriving in the UAE’s fastest-growing city, Helene met her husband-to-be at a New Year’s Eve party in the desert. A few months later the two were married and they now have two children together. He works at her firm, Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants, which is another large part of Helene’s success in Dubai.

In 1998, four years after moving to Dubai, Helene Mathieu became the first Western woman allowed to set up her own law practice in the UAE city. She is a trailblazer whose firm specializes in introducing businesses from abroad, especially Canada, France, and Belgium, to companies and potential business partners in Dubai.

Helene Mathieu is helping to break the stigma of how women can be treated in an environment that is often labeled as male dominated. In her office, there are 13 framed photographs or newspaper clippings that show Helene with various dignitaries and businessmen. In most of these photos she is the only woman in the picture. And while women are still the minority in the business world of the Middle East, Helene Mathieu maintains that their culture truly does respect a smart woman with expertise in her field.