Updated: Oct 28
Our October member of the month, Joanna Williams is new to the community, but brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with her!
Joanna is a certified coach who is passionate about human and organisational flourishing. She works with individuals and teams using evidence-based methods from Positive Psychology, helping them to unleash potential, develop resilience towards daily challenges, and support sustainable performance in all areas of life. She has a particular interest in Neurodiversity.
Originally from Australia, she has made her home in Zurich, and previously held senior leadership/executive roles, before founding Flourish GmbH in 2021. She brings a wealth of business and life experience mixed with empathy, honesty and compassion to coaching, consulting and training.
Joanna's Motto: Be well. Do well.
I was inspired to become a WDS member to connect with women in Switzerland who also have an interest in, or work within, digital / tech / STEM. The fact that WDS is a front-runner in highlighting the importance of neurodiversity at work in Switzerland is excellent and shows both their strategic and pragmatic interest in the future of work.
Tell us about yourself
I am originally from Australia. I previously lived and worked in China and have happily called Switzerland home since 2010 (based in Zurich and Lucerne).
After over two decades in global professional and leadership roles, I founded Flourish GmbH in 2021. Passionate about people and science, I use an evidence-based approach to support individuals, leaders and organisations to get “unstuck” and flourish. Holding an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology, as well as accreditations with ICF and EMCC, I coach, consult and train individuals and teams. Flourishing can mean higher levels of well-being and sustainable performance, with individual and group potential being unleashed by using strengths-based methods.
I also specialise in neurodiversity at work and advocate for moving away from the traditional “deficit/disorder” lens and towards one that appreciates the strengths of difference, including actions that can be taken to create neuroinclusive environments. I am workplace certified in NeurodiversityAware®.
I adore spending time in nature, particularly in the Alps or by the lake, and have adopted cross-country skiing as my favourite winter sport (which I find simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating!)
What was your first interaction with WDS and how was it for you? I joined in September 2023. Navigating the site and becoming a member was a seamless process. Rachael Camp was very supportive: e.g., suggesting specific meetup events in my area and quickly responding to my questions. It was a great experience and being offered a member of the month slot was a lovely surprise.
What was your reason for joining WDS?
A WDS LinkedIn post on “Neurodiversity at Work”, impressed me to see a Swiss-based community of professional women committing to drive the conversation on untapped talent, while also recognising the effort and dedication it will take to build awareness and generate successful outcomes in neuroinclusive workplaces. Exploring the website, I found the community’s diversity and inclusion values, along with the mission and vision, resonated with me. I hope to connect with other women in (or with interests in) STEM / digital sector.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us!
My first studies were in gemmology and diamond technology. And, I still love “rocks”!
Is there a professional achievement that you are especially proud of?
Establishing my business in the middle of a global pandemic. And also being able to keep an open and curious mind, even in the face of adversity (not always easy!) by actively practising what generates flourishing.
Are there many women in your industry? Why is that or why not?
One industry I currently work in is coaching. However I also provide workplace consulting and training/facilitation services. The coaching industry has higher female representation, with female coaches forming a majority in most countries, ranging from ca. 63-75% of coaches (ICF, 2020; Passmore et al., 2017). A variety of factors may affect this, one being the flexibility/working hours the profession can offer. My own motivation to study coaching psychology and apply positive psychology was to use a scientific, evidence-based approach to best support my clients in reaching their goals.
Regarding Neurodiversity, traditionally there were more males in the field (those who were conducting research, and those who were giving or receiving diagnoses). Gender bias in science has sometimes negatively impacted genders other than males, for example, a lack of support and acknowledgement, or understanding of how neurodivergent traits and conditions can be expressed in females and the socialisation factors that can contribute to masking and camouflaging behaviours. I’m glad the field appears to be changing in a positive direction - other genders are increasingly represented in the academic space who bring broader perspectives on neurodivergent conditions, and it appears research is beginning to include a more diverse range of lived experiences
Which aspect of your industry might interest other women to start work in this field?
If you are someone who is curious about “why” positive psychology is beneficial, and likes an evidence-based yet practical approach towards human and organisational flourishing, it’s a fascinating field to be in! And it continues to grow.
Looking at well-being from a generative approach (e.g., “What can I do to build resources to handle life’s inevitable challenges?”) offers a skill set for developing resilience over a lifetime. In workplaces, positive organisational psychology can support companies to strategically influence collective resilience and sustainable performance (rather than only “fixing what’s broken”). Using data (and working with HR/people analytics teams) is key in the field. For example, examining the relationship between the different wellbeing factors at work and the intention for employees to stay with or leave a company. In the war for talent, this factor is often overlooked or misunderstood - it isn’t only about doing social good, but it also makes commercial sense. Which future trend is the most interesting in your opinion?
Assistive technologies. I’m curious to see how current and emerging technologies that are designed to support neurodivergent and/or disabled people are potentially tech-for-good tools that can benefit many. If we can implement these as part of universal design beyond the built environment (i.e. as basic tech standards in organisations and learning environments), it may help to destigmatize adjustments and reduce the need for “forced disclosure” for people to easily access support.