In graduate school I often heard the questions: “What is culture? What does it mean? How do you define it? Does America have it?” Interviewing and onboarding with The Women’s Bakery it is a word I have been hearing often again. So what is it? What does it mean? And how does an organization working in multiple countries, like The Women’s Bakery, build a culture that bridges the gap between very different backgrounds, socio-economics statuses, religions, ethnicities, etc.?
Merriam Webster gives it multiple definitions. For the purpose of this article, I am working from the premise that culture is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”. When you put it this way, to me it seems The Women’s Bakery has this down pat.
But, what does that mean? What are those shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices? In my first couple of weeks with The Women’s Bakery, I have seen those beliefs as striving for gender equality, women’s empowerment, personal and professional growth opportunities for all employees, accountability to each other and to the greater good, and a determination to meet each day with grit and grace.
How does that translate across countries, time zones, and languages? Good question! So far, I am experiencing that as lots of Facetime, lots of question asking and asking people to repeat things, and plenty of slowing down to ensure that each woman’s voice is heard. It is my humble opinion, that culture is where the rubber meets the road. It is the place where mission and meaning meet. To say TWB builds bakeries that sustainably employ women and enhance community nutrition is one thing. To build bakeries that sustainably employ women and enhance community nutrition with integrity and women’s involvement is an entirely different thing. This last thing is truly what culture is about.