Dr. Ford delivered a powerful message during her keynote address to 4,000 attendees at the 2017 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. Her message was carefully crafted, interweaving her academic career and a job at the White House, with personal challenges she had to overcome stemming from her bout with "impostor syndrome". Her dynamic delivery engaged the audience in the challenges she faced and concluded with a resolution stemming from the solutions she found
Knatokie Ford, PhD is Founder and CEO of Fly Sci® Enterprise, an education and media consulting organization focused on leveraging the power of storytelling to promote social change, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. A dynamic and inspiring speaker, Dr. Ford is an international advocate for equity and inclusion in education, media, and STEM careers. She has shared her work and powerful story throughout the United States and around the world—notably, she was selected by the U.S. State Department for a speaking tour where she traveled throughout two countries in Africa (Namibia and eSwatini) to speak to students and educators.
As a biomedical scientist and social entrepreneur, she has worked with a number of leading organizations. She served as a science consultant on Netflix’s Emmy-winning series Ada Twist, Scientist, where she also inspired the creation of a Knatokie character modeled in her childhood likeness with her signature snazzy eyeglasses. She also consulted on the development of Eureka! on Disney Junior. Dr. Ford oversaw development of YouTube’s first-ever “Creating Inclusive Content” course and Inclusion Driver. She built upon that work to create YouTube’s series of equity in learning content strategy guides that span primary to postsecondary education and have been translated in over 20 languages. In addition, she served as an Executive Advisor for the Association of National Advertisers’ SeeHer movement where she spearheaded the launch of #WriteHerRight, which provides resources to support storytellers’ efforts to integrate more authentic depictions of women into their work. In this capacity, she co-led SeeHer’s efforts to collaborate with major television networks, including the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and NBCUniversal Telemundo, to build intersectional tools to mitigate gender bias in media and highlight best practices in order to drive positive change. In partnership with PBS Digital Studios, she is working on a National Science Foundation-funded project to illuminate best practices for increasing engagement of underrepresented groups in STEM with science media through a novel research-practice content creation model.
Dr. Ford previously served as a Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) during the Obama Administration. In this role, she oversaw development and implementation of the “Image of STEM” project. Listed in the top 100 S&T accomplishments of the Obama Administration, the Image of STEM project was a national initiative designed to raise visibility and improve the image of STEM fields and careers in order to help promote diversity in the STEM workforce. From 2012-2014, Dr. Ford served as a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at OSTP with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). In this capacity, she managed concurrent projects on education technology and improving the nation’s healthcare system, in addition to working with OSTP’s STEM inclusion team.
Prior to working in the Obama Administration, Dr. Ford was a postdoctoral fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. She also spent time in Los Angeles where she had the opportunity to work in the entertainment industry and serve as a middle school teacher in an underserved community.
Dr. Ford has served on the Barbie Global Advisory Council, YouTube Kids Global Advisory Committee, and the Toy Association’s STEM/STEAM Strategic Leadership Committee. She was a nominee in the “Shero” category of the inaugural Women’s Choice Awards and is featured in the “BLACK GIRLS ROCK!” book by Beverly Bond. Dr. Ford received her PhD in Experimental Pathology from Harvard University and her BS/MS in Chemistry/Biological Chemistry from Clark Atlanta University. Regis College awarded Dr. Ford an honorary doctorate of science.
Featured Keynote Programs
STEM diversity and inclusion
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are essential to America’s economic growth and global competitiveness. The United States has a growing demand for STEM workers in 21st century jobs. Among the fastest growing jobs, 80 percent require math or science skills and there are currently over 600,000 unfilled jobs in the information technology sector alone. Research indicates that diversity in teams can drive innovation, yet historically, women, minorities, and people with disabilities have been underrepresented in STEM careers. Although they comprise a majority of college students, women and minorities represent a largely untapped talent pool for STEM. Dr. Ford will share insights from her in work in the Obama Administration on parental engagement, STEM education (k-12 and postsecondary) and workforce issues, as well as the role of entertainment media as the next frontier of STEM inclusion.
Storytelling and Entertainment Media as tools for social change
Studies of popular entertainment media such as cinema and television demonstrate the power of the media to influence the public’s behaviors and attitudes by shaping, cultivating, or reinforcing the cultural meanings and perceptions. One of the most important ways in which media shapes perception is by helping to build or break stereotypes. Positive examples of media campaigns prompting social change include the Harvard Alcohol Project that reduced drunk-driving related fatalities as well as the “CSI Effect” where positive portrayals of forensic science in various CSI television series caused undergraduate and graduate degree enrollment in forensic science programs to nearly double between 2000 and 2005. Dr. Ford will share best practices and insights on how targeted efforts to increase “pro-social” content, particularly in portrayals of STEM professionals, hold great promise to promote significant and sustained change.
Imposter Syndrome and Stereotype Threat
Silent Killers of Confidence
On the heels of achievement, it is not uncommon for people to feel like they just got “lucky” or that they do not deserve to be where they are. This is known as the imposter syndrome, which is typically associated with high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud." The close cousin of the imposter syndrome is “stereotype threat,” which is a situational predicament where people fear conforming to stereotypes about their social group. The imposter syndrome and stereotype threat can not only reduce confidence, but also impact performance. Dr. Ford shares her firsthand experiences grappling with these “silent confidence killers” while at Harvard and even the White House and the tactics she employed to overcome them.
“Dreams are like stars. You may never touch them, but if you follow them, they will lead you to your destiny.” One of the biggest barriers to success is the fear of failure. Dr. Ford will share the inspirational story of how she has faced fear head on in pursuit of her dreams. From taking a leave from her PhD program at Harvard to move to Hollywood, to turning down “safe” jobs and enduring unemployment to pursue her dream project full time. Dr. Ford has embodied a “high risk, high reward” mentality as she has navigated her career trajectory, and will share lessons learned from her journey.
Knatokie captures the audience's attention from the moment she takes the stage. Her story of overcoming adversity encourages others to persevere in their own challenges. Knatokie's natural curiosity and love for STEM is infectious. Her passion for diversity and desire to make a difference is inspiring.