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Women & girls in science: Q&A with Ritva Vilppola

For The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we connected with Ritva Vilppola on why we should support women and girls interested in science. Ritva, a Diploma Programme (DP) graduate and sustainability consultant, offers advice to girls considering a career in science.

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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 Ritva Vilppola who works as a sustainability consultant in Brisbane and is currently the Queensland Chapter Vice President of Engineers Without Borders Australia. Ritva shares why easy access to science education is crucial for everyone.

“Where I want to take my career has been heavily influenced by the exposure I received throughout my IB education.”

What makes you passionate about your work?

Climate change and over-exploitation of resources has become an ever-increasing global issue around sustainability. Even though we are far from reaching adequate levels of reducing our impact on earth, it is great to see some forms of progress that my work lets me be a part of.

How did your IB education help shape your career passions?

Where I want to take my career has been heavily influenced by the exposure I received throughout my IB education. I took HL Physics, Visual Arts and Geography, which developed my interest in pursuing something that would combine the three together. Additionally, volunteering through CAS allowed me to see the positive impact we can have in our local and global communities and that is far more valuable than the income we may earn.

“I also think it’s actually quite empowering to surprise people (even yourself!) of your capabilities.”

Do you think increasing access to science courses for girls is important? And why?

Absolutely—I think it’s important for everyone to have access to science courses! We live in a time where the abundance of factual and non-factual information can create a detrimental impact on the way we work together and understand each other. We all need to learn about science, the research that has been done for decades to reach the answers we have today as well as all the research that’s still required so we are more knowledgeable of our changing environments.

What strides have you seen in your industry to be more inclusive of female scientists?

This is where the positive value of marketing really comes in. I am very lucky to be part of a generation and culture where there is not a lot of discrimination relative to what my older colleagues have experienced. I think marketing teams in engineering consultancies like mine have done a very good job in acknowledging the females, women and mothers who have pursued careers in a male-dominant industry environment.

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

Just do it! If you enjoy it, are curious about it and are energised by it—I don’t see why you should be hesitant about your career goals because of other people. It’s just the more reason to pursue it! I also think it’s actually quite empowering to surprise people (even yourself!) of your capabilities. It’s all to do with your perception of what others think.


Ritva Vilppola completed their schooling at St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland, New Zealand before continuing their studies at Victoria University of Wellington. Prior to joining WSP in 2017 as a Sustainability Consultant and relocating to Brisbane, Ritva worked at the New Zealand Green Building Council. Passionate about helping communities thrive, Ritva is the local Queensland Chapter Vice President of the non-profit organisation, Engineers Without Borders Australia. In their downtime, they enjoy being immersed in art at the local printmaking studio. You can also reach Ritva on LinkedIn or via email at [email protected].

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 [email protected]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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