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An Intern’s look at the Organizational Culture of SWSG

Posted by Jenny Schaeffer Jul 7, 2015 , ,

By Emily Drabeck,

I have officially been part of the Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG)  Pittsburgh team for a little over one month and I am excited to share all that I have learned thus far. Before joining the organization, I was not sure what to expect as I had little exposure to SWSG’s mission and values. However, after just one short month,  my perspective has been expanded  and I have become inspired by the work that is being done at SWSG. In order to analyze the unique culture of SWSG, it is beneficial to use Edgar Schein’s culture model which divides organizational culture into three main levels: artifacts, espoused values, and basic underlying assumptions.

Schein’s model is often referred to as the onion model as each level of the organization is revealed slowly. The closer to the center the more difficult it is to understand. Also, the closer the aspect is to the center the more difficult it is to change.

org.modelThe first level of organizational culture according to Schein is artifacts. Artifacts are simple to identify as they consist of symbols, values, heroes, and objects. At SWSG the logo is a popular symbol as it represents an “ever upward” mission of the organization to break the glass ceiling.  According to Schein, a “hero” within an organization is anyone who played an important role and is to be admired. At SWSG founder Lindsey Hyde is a “hero” as she founded the organization as an undergrad at Harvard. During my first few weeks at SWSG I was immersed in the first level of the culture and was able to gain a strong foundation.

Throughout the next several weeks I explored the second level of the organizational culture which is espoused values.Espoused values are the ideologies, goals, and aspirations of an organization. At SWSG the ideologies of all staff members are clear: they aim to embrace, aspire, and empower local women and girls to achieve and reach their potential! This is evident in office culture as well. The staff never ceases to amaze me by the way they work together and empower each other.  I have been kindly welcomed into the office by the Pittsburgh team and at the cross-city staff retreat by the Boston team.  The goal of the organization is also clear, as it is to provide three generations of mentorship, while building community and self-development. My favorite part of this experience so far has been the chance to go into the office each week and know that the work I am apart of has a greater purpose and goal.

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Lastly, the third level of Schein’s organizational culture is the basic assumptions. Basic assumptions are at the core of organizational culture and can be frequently found at the unconscious level for those within the organization. The basic assumptions also frequently stem from the established values in the second level. Still relatively new to the culture of SWSG, I am still examining this level of culture as I continue to be immersed in it. Understanding organizational culture is a process and challenge; one that I am happy to accept!

My summer at Strong Women, Strong Girls has provided me with so many incredible experiences and I am looking forward to the next two months at SWSG as I expand my skills and knowledge.

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