Looking for a Strong Organizational Culture? Respect the Human Dignity

For an organization that has been around for 25 years, Women for Women International has a robust organizational culture. The success in creating this culture is tied to their dedication and commitment to supporting the most marginalized women in society. While the big picture is “to create a world where women can determine the course of their lives,” this organization recognizes the inequality that some women experience living in war zones and don’t necessarily have the tools to pursue this goal. As a result, the core values and beliefs of WfWI are to provide the resources, information, and support needed to help women in conflict zones achieve their full potential. Their four central values of empowerment, respect, integrity, and resilience profoundly influence the values carried in the organization. These values are reflected in the attitude of most of their employees through hard work, taking new initiatives, treating everyone with respect and dignity, and advocating good stewardship at all times.

The expectation for those who work at WfWI is to internalize the core values of the organization and believe that the work they are doing is essential to the success of the organization, no matter the position one holds. The expectations are clearly communicated by those in leadership and HR as soon as you are introduced to the team. Employees are encouraged to ask questions and express their thoughts, suggestions, and concerns. During the first week of my internship, everyone in the office, including the CEO went through sexual harassment training. Further, their attitude to reach one’s full potential is applied to the employees and interns through the encouragement to be creative and come up with new ideas to help the organization’s work. For example, the 2017 upsurge in South Sudan conflict caused WfWI to halt their program in the country for 12 months. From my conversation with the team, it was a difficult decision to make since it impacted the lives of many women enrolled in the program. However, due to the commitment they made to the women in their program, WfWI sought opportunities to work with other partners who were able to remain in the country and support the work of serving women. This decision reflects the seriousness of WfWI’s work and their mission to help women. When they were not able to be on the ground to carry their program, they came up with different ways to support the women enrolled in those programs.

In addition to the mission of the organization, the norms at the office are to create an environment where it’s effective, productive, and comfortable. Most employees across departments tend to collaborate together and share feedback on past and future projects. For example, the communications team meets with the development team in biweekly meetings to keep each other up to date with new information. This also helps both departments to create a sense of unity and teamwork. Another norm at the office is to provide support and guidance for each other. My supervisor always checks in to make sure if there is anything she could possibly do so I can be successful on a project that I am working on. Even when I do not have any questions, I still appreciate her checking in. It’s easy to pick on these norms and trends through observing informal conversations and attending formal meetings. Regardless of the formality of an event, the values that this organization stands and are demonstrated through the work of its employees.

I think having a mission statement and values that the employees care, understand, and live by makes this environment a great place to work at. I am highly passionate about women empowerment and women’s rights, and during the first week of my internship, I quickly learned that those who work here too are seriously engaged and committed. Just yesterday, the CEO, Laurie Adams, stopped by my desk to check in and see how I liked working here. I shared I was blown away by the ambition and the work ethic of those who work here. She shared with me that her previous job was a man dominated environment where she saw the need for women to speak up and go after what they needed (in her case that was funding for her department). I think having a leader that has experienced both sides of a weak and a robust organizational office culture definitely helps to create an excellent environment where the employees are appreciated for their work.