Tori Ford, founder of Medical Herstory

Photo of Tori Ford

I’m the founder of Medical Herstory, an international award-winning youth-led non-profit on a mission to eliminate sexism, shame, and stigma from health experiences. We advance gender health equity through medical education, patient advocacy, and undoing stigma. Our work is anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-able, and trans and non-binary inclusive.

I am a feminist health researcher completing a DPhil in Primary Health Care at the University of Oxford funded by an NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship. I completed a BA from McGill University in Gender Studies and an MPhil from the University of Cambridge in Health, Medicine, and Society. My work on advancing gender health equity has been featured by UNWomen, The Harvard Public Health Review, Hunger Magazine, and Cosmopolitan.

What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
I have been a sex educator since I was 16 and became interested in how young women were taught that their bodies and health were taboo to be discussed. I became an entrepreneur after my own lived experience of medical dismissal, sexism, shame, and stigma. A platform didn’t exist to share my story, so I created one. Today we have over 100 volunteers across 7 countries working.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Medical Herstory Logo

Entrepreneurship is about leading change and innovation in a way that only you can.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
Medical Herstory began with a single story that I published in my University newspaper. After my story was shared, I heard from so many other people asking where they could share their story and get involved. Once I built the platform, we watched as an influx of passionate people spoke out and began advocate for change. Over the last four years, we have created a powerful community who share how much Medical Herstory has influenced their lives and this is what inspires us to keep growing.

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Bravery, perseverance, and empathy. It takes courage to trust in yourself, perseverance to push on when things do not go to plan, and empathy for yourself and those you work with is the most important leadership skill.

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Being able to try out new ideas and lead my team to new heights we didn’t think were possible.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Medical Herstory has been supported by other amazing organisations working to advance gender health equity. We are always inspired by young people pushing boundaries.

If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I love hearing people’s stories of how their lived experience impacted them to lead their companies.

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
Our campaign with Hunger Magazine on Instagram censorship. We had our censorsed Instagram posts displayed in a London art gallery.

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Not taking care of myself! Medical Herstory was born out of pain and shame. This work is extremely meaningful but it can be difficult fighting what oftentimes feels like an uphill battle. It’s important to celebrate all the small wins along the way and to take time to check in with yourself so you don’t get lost in the fight.

How have you funded your ideas?
We rely on donations from community members to run our vital services alongside government funding, sponsorships, and university partnerships.

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
We have been lucky enough to be supported by the Community Entreprise Awards at the University of Oxford.

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Oxford is full of passionate people curious about new ideas. I’ve heard from students all around the world how gender health inequity has impacted them and how helpful Medical Herstory has been as a resource.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
Definitely look into all of the entrepreneurial opportunities on campus!

Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
As women we have to work harder to be heard and taken seriously. Further, less than 2% of public research funds in the UK go towards organisations working on gender equity so there are structural inequities at play as well. Overcoming these requires targeted funding and resources being allocated to support women entrepreneurs.

Any last words of advice?
Your lived experience is valuable and it can be used to inspire change. Your story matters and it deserves to be heard.