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Women & girls in science: Q&A with Cristina Balbás

For The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we connected with Dr. Cristina Balbás on why we should support women and girls interested in science. Cristina, a Diploma Programme (DP) graduate and co-founder of Escuelab, shares her perspective on how scientific thinking can help girls regardless of what career they end up in.

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Each year on February 11, the United Nations focuses on the importance of women and girls in science fields. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science aims to highlight the critical and influential roles that women and girls play in science and technology. By supporting gender equality, we can open up new opportunities to develop unique perspectives and ideas to help solve the world’s most pressing issues.

We connected with Dr. Cristina Balbás, who co-founded Escuelab, an organization that increases access to STEM learning, to speak about her work empowering children to pursue scientific exploration.

“I have always been passionate about both science and communication”

What makes you passionate about your work?

I am one of the co-founders and the director of Escuelab (“Schoolab”), a social project that democratizes access to practical, interactive science education to foster research vocations and develop skills for the future amongst Spanish 4-14 year-olds. We produce educational materials and implement them in our non-formal education programs. We have designed a unique methodology based on neuro-education research and we apply it to our workshops, extracurricular science clubs and holiday day and residential science camps. Our pricing policies are adjusted to the socio-economic level of attending students and we have devised a scholarship scheme so that students at risk of socio-economic vulnerability can attend our programs free of cost. I have always been passionate about both science and communication, and this project is the perfect way to put both fields together. Moreover, the social impact we have and the work with the children are a true driver of my daily efforts at work.

How did your IB education help shape your career passions?

The service component of the IB, which is especially reinforced in the United World Colleges (UWC) movement, of which I am also an alum, was key to making me realize that change-making could become a way of life. The IB and UWC trained me to challenge the status quo and search for innovative solutions to social problems and equipped me with the tools to successfully start a sustainable project and make it succeed.

“Learning to think like a scientist shapes your mind in ways that are going to be useful in the future regardless of your profession”

What advice do you have for girls considering a career in the sciences?

I would tell girls interested in pursuing a career in the sciences that they should study what they like best, regardless of whether it’s a career traditionally more “masculine”. As a benefit to them, learning to think like a scientist shapes your mind in ways that are going to be useful in the future regardless of your profession and there are many career paths that can be followed after studying anything in the sciences, not just the traditional “research in the academic or industry sectors”. As a benefit to society as a whole, women in science contribute to the diversity in the field, which is always a positive thing. As a piece of personal advice, I’d recommend that they find a mentor, somebody (ideally another woman) who can accompany them along the way. This will help them gain confidence and will provide a role model to identify with and learn from.

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Cristina Balbás is a graduate of Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong and is also the co-founder and director of Escuelab, based in Madrid, Spain.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at alumni.relations@ibo.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!

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