Anjali J. Forber-Pratt sits in a wheelchair, smiling at the camera, with a large black service dog by her side. Her hair is pulled back and she is wearing a black polka dot top with red pants and black boots.

Anjali J. Forber-Pratt, Ph.D.: Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University

The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Anjali J. Forber-Pratt to discuss the role of women in innovation.   Get involved at She Innovates Global.

#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?

Anjali J. Forber-Pratt: The world constantly limits expectations of people with disabilities. Because of this, there is a lack of role models for disabled women in leadership positions worldwide. I strive to contribute to solving this problem by helping others to understand the potential that people with disabilities have, and the contributions we can, and do make to society. My innovation is quite simply: inclusion.

#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?

AJF: When I was 5 years old, I was enamored of my shero, Jean Driscoll, who was competing in the Boston Marathon. This was so monumental to me, to see a real adult woman with a disability. It has shaped my entire line of research and drives me to keep innovating ways to include people with disabilities in research, and to do this work to promote inclusion and representation. 

#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?

AJF: The doubters and the naysayers who did not believe in me were a definite obstacle. It would have been easy to give in to these doubters, but by instead viewing these obstacles as opportunities in disguise, it has fueled me to continue to do this work. 

#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?

AJF: Inspiration is a complicated word for me as a person with a disability. To me, to be inspired means that you are deeply moved by a person’s actions or their story. Perhaps even to change something about yourself, your actions or your path in life. Based on that, I am motivated to love my work by the connections I make with people around the world and by seeing them also doing this work. It’s witnessing the ripple-effect in action, as well as being able to play a small role in building them up and supporting them that keeps me going.

#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?

AJF: You matter. Your dreams matter. Your passions matter. Your work matters. We need more of you in the world. Be careful not to put limits on yourself or to stifle your own innovation; it took me awhile to realize just how big my platform is/was to leave my mark on the world.

#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?

AJF: Women in innovation are important because we add a diversity of thought. We approach problems uniquely, and are natural problem solvers.  We are able to think ahead to different scenarios and solve them before they become issues. These are some of the many assets that we bring to the field of innovation.

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Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.