The Fem-LED research project at OCAD University’s Super Ordinary Laboratory examines the barriers and enablers for female leadership in Interactive and Digital Media (I&DM) and, more broadly, in the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector. In the course of this project, we realized that the issue was not that female leadership has merely been increasing at a slow rate. Alarmingly, we realized that female leadership, and female inclusion overall, has been declining in these environments for the last three decades.

Interactive and Digital Media includes a variety of content development sectors including Film, Video Games, TV, and Web/App Development. The gender violence that we have come to associate with gaming content and game-makers’ working culture is not an outlying issue; rather, it should be understood as the most notorious of everyday, ongoing outputs and conditions across ICT sectors. As Entertainment or other communication media evolve, we see the same gender difficulties across these domains. Silicon Valley, a major hub of entrepreneurialism and innovation in ICTs, is also rapidly becoming infamous for its anti-women culture. Now this culture is spreading geographically. There are countermovements that value diversity in workplaces and are aware of gender bias as a contemporary problem that must be addressed in order to ensure growth and accountability for equitable gender access and experience in ICTs. A public discourse is growing in recognition that we must confront these barriers to women’s success and, encouragingly, that there are many actions that we can take to forge an alternative future that acknowledges, supports and reaps the benefits of full integration of female innovators in the field.

Our results show that concerned people and organizations must take consistent action across spheres of education, industry and beyond for the culture and climates of ICT & I&DM industries to improve in regard to women.  Currently, ICT & I&DM work environments and outputs are inhospitable to women, fail to properly train them, create life/work imbalances, fail to celebrate and promote women, and miss out on opportunities to make media content and ICT outputs more inclusive. For these reasons, it is imperative that the findings of this report are disseminated widely to, and supplemented by, ICT & I&DM stakeholders, including industry leaders and workers, as well as: members of community groups dedicated to girls and women’s training; leaders and teachers in educational organizations at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels; and public and private media leaders.  In fact, we encourage the broadest possible dissemination of these findings to the general public.

Success will depend on broad and dispersed efforts, across all related sectors, to encourage ongoing attention to gender-related problems. Remedies are necessary in: educational curriculum and hiring practices; media reporting; industry and governmental hiring and promotion practices in ICT and I&DM sectors; and in public conversations regarding fair and compassionate treatment of women in homes, social spaces, schools, community and at work.



Bodystorm Workshop

On August 21st 2015, The Mission Business Inc. (TMB) - a Toronto-based foresight, design, and innovation consultancy - delivered a workshop intended to surface, circulate, and capture stories from female tech, internet, and digital media entrepreneurs in Ontario. This was one phase of a project, called fem-LED, run by the Super Ordinary Lab inside the Ontario College of Art and Design, and was enabled by support from the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Purpose of the workshop was to:

  1. Explore the causes of low female participation in information communications technology (ICT) and interactive and digital media (I&DM) leadership with a community of female entrepreneurs and leaders.

  2. Diffusing and contextualizing research from other phases of the Fem-LED project.

  3. Exploring new iterations of The Mission Business (TMB) professional services that deliver value to organizations focused on innovation in the realm of human resources (HR), rather than product development and thought leadership marketing.

At a high level, the purpose of the workshop shared by TMB and OCAD-U researchers was to create a sense of community within a network of female entrepreneurs working in the ICT / I&DM industries in Ontario, and to explore with that group the causes of women dropping out of leadership positions in Ontario companies.

The group of participants who attended the workshop were brought together in the context of a speculative narrative designed by TMB, in order to give all of the women in attendance permission to share stories during the course of the workshop’s proceedings. This narrative introduction was delivered by Dorothy “Dot” Drummond, the CEO of a fictional company called 4Corp created by TMB for workshops and online education programs. 4Corp’s products and services set the company in a futuristic context, but it faces the same challenges that ICT / I&DM companies in Ontario have today, as highlighted in other phases of the Fem-LED research project.

Women and Games

Game studies is the relatively new and multi- and inter-disciplinary academic field of studying games, game design, game players and their role in society and culture more broadly.

To date the themes addressed by feminist game studies can be sketched as work on gendered activity in digital games and feminine preference in play style and game characteristics. Other key studies look to gender equity in game making and to the wider context of access to games. From Brenda Laurel's work in the early 90s (Yates & Littleton, 1999) onwards (long pre-dating any such thing as games studies); critics, commentators and the academy have offered theories and observations on the difference in play habits, styles and consumption of digital gaming exhibited by women and girls. Yet much of the work that has been carried out, seemingly in isolation in the U.K., U.S. and Europe, has cycled through repeating debates on representation, equity and access. For example, some research points to specific gender preference in play style whereas Jenson’s and de Castell’s (2008) work shows that these differences can be more about novice players than about gender. Jenson and de Castell (2008) urged researchers to "rethink the assumptions and presumptions of work on gender and gameplay.." in a call to acknowledge the always situated context of gameplay and game research in order to frame a solid foundation for future work, whether theoretical or practical.

Images from the "BodyStorm" workshop
Friday, November 14, 2014 - 2:45pm to Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 2:45pm
Lab Member: 
Suzanne Stein
Prateeksha Singh
Mithula Naik
Jill Sharrock

Design With Dialogue: Connecting Citizens to Future Governance

Image of three people holding a conversation with black text and speech icon
Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - 11:00pm to Thursday, January 15, 2015 - 2:00am

Can we motivate civil society to form a collaborative approach to Canadian governance?

How will governing – public decision making – be influenced through citizens evolving new digital and place-based channels?

The January DwD will be a public workshop convened by OCADU’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) as part of our ongoing SSHRC-sponsored action research conducted during 2014.

We invite participants to join us in reframing and representing the key challenges and future innovations that might influence civic participation and governing across Canadian government sectors. You will be engaging in a mix of plenary and focused small-group workshops to develop responses to emerging and future governing challenges. Using our current Gigamap (large-scale system map) as a departure point for participant contributions, you can contribute to the discourse by building on and critiquing the findings of a recent major workshop via card sort and dialogue mapping.

We are interested in discovering how the practices and expectations of governance are and will be shifting from the vantage point of citizens and other stakeholders, communities, and sectors. We aim to explore how Canada – with all of its levels of government and regional diversity – might evolve as a basis for considering how government practices ought to transform.

Venue & Address: 
OCAD University, 100 McCaul Street, Room 187

OCAD University Data Centre expanded by 300%

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 4:00am

Project supports institution's growing research portfolio

(Toronto—September 1, 2011) In a ribbon-cutting ceremony today, OCAD University (OCAD U) opened the doors to its newly expanded and upgraded data centre, a major initiative at the university aimed at supporting the institution's growing research portfolio. The project provided significantly increased capacity for academic and administrative computing, storage and networking capabilities.

The data centre expansion increases the facility's physical footprint by 300%, and includes fully upgraded and state-of-the-art energy efficient and redundant mechanical, cooling and electrical systems and server cabinets.

"Completion of this project represents a major milestone in the advancement of the technological infrastructure that will help OCAD University realize many of its strategic objectives over the coming years," said OCAD U President, Dr. Sara Diamond.

The project provides the technological requirements for research projects in the university's specialized graduate and undergraduate programs such as the Graduate Program in Digital Futures, which has just admitted its first cohort, while providing support for a broad range of services to all students and faculty. Major collaborative research initiatives such as the Inclusive Design Research Centre and the Centre for Information Visualization and Data-Driven Design require significant compute capacity and data storage, and by completing the data centre project OCAD U can now house the essential infrastructure to enable this leading edge research.

Working with Computer Room Services Corporation (http://www.crsc.ca/) OCAD University now has a data centre designed and optimized for reliability, security and N+1 redundancy for all critical mechanical and electrical components providing capability for 99.749% availability (Tier 2) for all services and over 460 U of cabinet space for compute and storage.

The OCAD University Data Center Expansion Project was made possible through the support of the Digital Media Research and Innovation Institute (DMRII) capital project, generously funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research & Innovation, and matched by OCAD University through support to OCAD U's Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Ontario Research Fund (MRI/ORF) and industry partners.

OCAD University (OCAD U): 135 Years of Imagination
OCAD University (www.ocad.ca) is Canada’s “University of the Imagination.” The University, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

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Download this release as a PDF file.

For more information contact:

Sarah Mulholland, Media & Communications Officer
416-977-6000 Ext. 327 (mobile Ext. 1327)