Discovery Place Celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Discovery Place

Catherine Wilson Horne

Catherine Wilson Horne, Discovery Place president and CEO, has always maintained a love of science. Although she began her college career as a chemistry major, she later changed course to earn an art history degree followed by a master’s degree in art history and museum studies. But throughout her three-plus decades working in, and in many cases leading, different types of museums, Catherine says she has always recognized the importance of science. And, she says, even more so, the importance of having women and girls involved in science.

Q: Why is it important for women and girls to be involved in science?

The STEM economy is booming, and we can’t meet the workforce needs without making sure both boys and girls have equal opportunities in these careers. Plus, we are better at solving the world’s problems when we use the strengths of men and women. In general, women can bring an aspect of empathy to a very traditionally cerebral field.

Q: How can the world ensure more women go into science fields?

The answer is multifold, really, but one critical element is showing young girls the women who are already succeeding in these fields. We must be able to highlight women already doing these things – working in labs, using microscopes and computers to solve problems – so young girls can truly see themselves in these types of careers. We also have to provide girls, and boys, with opportunities for hands-on STEM learning. When they touch something, build something or use science to solve a problem presented to them, that is when they discover they want to be a scientist.

Q: What is our role at Discovery Place in introducing or advancing science knowledge in young girls?

We approach this in many ways at Discovery Place. Through our Education Studio, we work with teachers, administrators and school districts to improve how they teach STEM subjects to their students. We also have built an arsenal of programming, from Summer Camps to Girls in STEM on the weekends, to nurture the innate talent in these young children and give them individualized attention. It is key to have a lot of pathways in because it is not always clear how to get them there.

Q: When did you first fall in love with science?

It was in the fourth grade. There was a story I would read about building houses. After reading it, I began drawing floor plans of buildings. That was my version of doodling in the fourth grade. My interest was in design and engineering, and how parts and pieces go together. It goes to show the importance of reading across all subjects. Literature can really prompt someone’s interest in something.

Q: You started out your college career with a science focus. What made you leave science?

I don’t think I left science, as much as I fell in love with art history and, in particular, design (which explains my interest in architecture, decorative arts, etc.). The benefit of my science training is to approach problems logically and have ways of experimenting to solve problems. 

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