Dr. Knatokie Ford: Founder and CEO, Fly Sci™ Enterprise; Former Senior Policy Advisor, Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Dr. Knatokie Ford 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?
Dr. Knatokie Ford: Entertainment media is powerful, and can shape attitudes and beliefs. It can play a dichotomous role—it can either reinforce biases and stereotypes against marginalized groups (women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, etc), or it can help address stigmas and paint pictures of an inclusive workforce and world we want to live in.
There are persistent challenges with diversity in media and the workforce. I have a special interest in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. My work is focused on fostering greater inclusion in media and more authentic stories, in order to leverage the power of storytelling to promote social change in the real world.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
KF: I serve as the STEM & Entertainment Engagement Advisor to the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer initiative. I oversaw development of a tip sheet for storytellers that consists of stats on representation, and 10 questions writers can ask themselves as they are developing female characters. The response to the tip sheet, from the writing community, has been tremendous! I believe this is because it’s a simple tool that storytellers can use not only to become more aware of their own biases, but also to drive conversations in writer’s rooms. Many times, the inclusion conversations end with citing injustices and inequality. The tip sheet goes further, and is intended to empower people to create change.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
KF: The tip sheet was developed in a collaborative and iterative process with leading storytellers, so it took time to find the right content and format. Optimizing dissemination and tracking is still a work in progress.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
KF: I am also a motivational speaker. As a black, female scientist speaking to diverse audiences of all ages, I get to witness—in real time—the power of sharing authentic, inclusive stories and how they can inspire and motivate people. Media has the power to scale that inspiration.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
KF: Even if there does not appear to be a clear road map, don’t be afraid to pursue your passion. Sometimes, you have to carve your own path. If the job you want does not exist yet, you might have to create it.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
KF: Diverse perspectives drive greater innovation. We will never maximize our abilities to solve complex problems until we fully capitalize on all available minds.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.