Errika Moore is the Senior Program Officer for the Community Foundation of Atlanta. She is also Co-Chair for the Million Women Mentor in the State of Georgia, providing strategic guidance and impact for identifying and developing sustainable mentor opportunities in that will increase the number of women who to pursue and stay committed to STEM careers.

At an early age Errika found math energizing and interesting, and she became interested in Biology and Chemistry in high school thanks to a few amazing teachers who kept classes interesting and interactive.

Beyond great teachers, throughout her STEM journey, Errika received support not only from her parents, but “Sheroes” such as Viola Thompson, President of IT Senior Management Forum (ITSMF), a national non-profit membership organization for technology executives of color at Fortune 500 global companies. She also received support from Dr. Augustine Esogbue, one of the first African American professors at Georgia Tech, who took Errika under his wing and continues to mentor her to this day.

Thanks to their guidance and support, Errika went on to study Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech and participated in three internships, including one at the White House. It was that internship that Errika decided to change her major to Industrial Engineering.

It was there that Errika encountered overt hostility, such as the negative images and comments that women, and more particularly, women of color, face in the STEM field. Professors and STEM professionals would say “Women like you don’t belong here” and “Black women have no business in industrial engineering.”

Though that level of prejudice is less common now, Errika says “Though we have changed the statistics; we still have a long way to go.” To help increase the numbers of women in STEM fields, she tells girls, “To thine own self be true. Take pride and honor in what you are interested in, discover something new, and do not be intimidated by ceilings.”

But to achieve any real equity in STEM fields, we cannot rely solely on the self-motivation of young women and girls. Errika says, “You can’t be what you can’t see. Teachers and parents need to pro-actively engage young girls by planting seeds to encourage them and their peers to discover and celebrate STEM interests, helping young girls imagine themselves in roles beyond what they currently see.”

The benefits of including more women in the STEM career pipeline go well beyond their own job-satisfaction and salaries. Errika adds, “Research and the journey of discovery does not happen the way it should without diversity at the table.” Real advancement and innovation comes when diverse viewpoints and experiences are included and valued. Without diversity in STEM it will eventually grow stagnant, therefore it is crucial that we continue to provide opportunities for all within the field of STEM.

Out Teach, formerly REAL School Gardens, provides professional development for elementary school teachers. Out Teach prepares them to use school gardens, outdoor classrooms, and green schoolyards to improve instruction through three-dimensional project-based learning, and outdoor experiential inquiry-based education. Professional learning with Out Teach improves hands-on science and STEM education through instructional coaching and digital education resources and improves 21st Century skills.