Christen Brandt and Tammy Tibbetts stand smiling with two other women, taking a group selfie in front of a backdrop that reads: "She's the first."

Tammy Tibbetts and Christen Brandt: Co­Founders of She’s the First

The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Christen Brandt and Tammy Tibbetts 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?

Christen Brandt and Tammy Tibbetts: Gender inequality holds back every woman around the world, whether threatening her safety, health, career, and/or autonomy. At She’s the First, we believe we can most effectively fight it through educating girls and training students to be global leaders, because the rising generation can change conversations and create a new reality.

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

CB and TT: We knew STF was going to be big when students started to take action by creating campus chapters at school and organizing community projects. Our partner organizations around the world told us that STF’s support was transformational, because we weren’t just wiring scholarship money. We were providing leadership training and resources that inspired girls to step up, to coordinate workshops that empower other women and host events that confront gender issues.

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

CB and TT: We launched She’s the First as friends and then had to learn how to work together as executives with very different work styles and personalities. We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses perfectly, but in order to leverage that as our superpower, we first had to learn how to communicate better.

#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?

CB and TT: We’re both motivated by young women who overcome tremendous obstacles to not only graduate from school but then go on to change their communities. For example, once an STF Scholar named Elly in Tanzania wanted to run for Student Government President. At the time, only young men could run. She petitioned to change the rules. Although she didn’t win, she set a precedent for other young women to follow.

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

CB and TT: We hope that young women find strength in their identity as a “first,” whether they are the first in their family to graduate, travel outside their country, be an entrepreneur, or speak three languages. You can’t wait to have all the answers before you tackle a big idea, because you’ll only discover your path by taking small steps one day at a time.

#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?

CB and TT: People closest to problems are most qualified to solve them. So we must turn to women and girls to rewrite the rules and create new systems that support gender equality.

Follow Christen Brandt on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Tammy Tibbetts on Twitter and Instagram.

Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.