A second-generation Chinese-American, Helen is a graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and is also a member for the university's first graduating class of women.
Award-winning reporter, and a contributing editor to Ms. magazine, where she was formerly executive editor, she was the first Asian-American women to head a major national magazine. Helen has been a long-time activist for social justice on issues ranging from civil rights and peace to women's rights and countering hate violence and homophobia.
Helen traveled to Beijing in 1995 to the UN Fourth World Congress on Women as part of a "journalists of color" delegation.
In 1997 she testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the impact of the campaign finance hearings on Asian-Americans, and helped author a complaint to the Commission against Congress, the Democratic and Republican National Committees, and the news media for racially discriminatory treatment of Asian-Americans.
In 1998, Helen was named Chinese-American Journalist of the Year by the Organization of Chinese-Americans. She has also received numerous awards for writing and editing from the Asian-American Journalists Association, the National Women's Political Caucus, the American Society of Business Press Editors, the Detroit Press Club, and other organizations.
Her articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She has contributed essays to several anthologies, and was executive editor of the book, Notable Asian-Americans. She is also the author of Asian-American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People (2000), and co-author with Wen Ho Lee of My Country Versus Me: The First-Hand Account by the Los Alamos Scientist Who Was Falsely Accused (2002).
She has also been a columnist for Underwire, the Microsoft online magazine for women; Channel A, the Asian-American online magazine; and a radio commentator for the Pacifica News Service. Her work on the Asian American landmark civil rights case of anti-Asian violence is documented in the Academy Award nominated film, Who killed Vincent Chin?
She is on the board of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Asian-American Journalists Association, and the Media Diversity Circle to advocate for diversity issues in the media. She serves on the advisory boards of the API Wellness Center; the Horizons Foundation; and the Media project of the Family Violence Prevention Fund of San Francisco.
Zia received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Law School of the City University of New York for bringing important matters of law and civil rights into public view. She remained closeted during much of her early career. She came out nationally on a live C-SPAN broadcast in the early 90s.