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

SFI Faculty Member outlines the potential of Experiential Futures practice in The Economist

Strategic Foresign and Innovation
Friday, December 18, 2015 - 5:00am

Professor Stuart Candy's article in The Economist's annual print/app/online look at the year ahead, "The World in 2016", outlines the potential of Experiential Futures practice for enabling public imagination and foresight in organisations, as well as in the wider culture.


International thought leaders on digital inclusion to converge at OCAD University

Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 4:00am

Designing Enabling Economies and Policies conference to feature talks by Don Tapscott and Kristyn Wong-Tam

(Toronto—May 10, 2012) OCAD University will host Designing Enabling Economies and Policies (DEEP), May 24 to 25, a program of the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict).

The conference brings together the world's most influential digital inclusion thinkers, information and communications technology designers, persons with disabilities advocates and policy makers to identify levers and innovative new strategies for digital inclusion that go beyond current approaches. G3ict is an Advocacy Initiative of the UN GAID, the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development.

Don Tapscott, one of the world's leading authorities on innovation, media and the economic and social impact of technology, is a key speaker at DEEP. Also among the line up is diversity activist and Toronto City Councillor for Toronto Centre-Rosedale, Kristyn Wong-Tam.

In addition, The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable David C. Onley will host participants for a reception in his suite at Queen's Park.

Designed to foster substantive, in-depth discussion among decision makers promoting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their respective countries, DEEP will analyze success factors and causes of failures of e-accessibility policies and programs. Areas of focus will include:

  • Accessible Education
  • Workplace Accommodation
  • Broadcasting and New Media
  • Telecommunications
  • Contents and Services

"Accessibility and inclusion are not only rights to be protected, but catalysts for new ideas," said conference co-convenor Jutta Treviranus, Director of OCAD University's Inclusive Design Research Centre, and of the Inclusive Design Institute. "DEEP is an opportunity for policy makers, advocates, service providers and academia to exchange ideas for digital inclusion for persons with disabilities. Digital inclusion leads to better design and robust business strategies, which in turn become economic drivers with ubiquitous social benefits."

"The DEEP conference will definitely help advance the understanding of success factors and roadblocks involved in implementing digital accessibility," said Axel Leblois, Executive Director, G3ict. "We are particularly pleased that leading disability advocates and private sector participants will be involved in brainstorming sessions alongside government representatives.  DEEP 2012 will also be a unique opportunity for international participants to learn more about the pioneering Canadian and Ontario experiences. We are very grateful to OCAD University, the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario to make this international multi-stakeholder inquiry possible."

Plenary sessions will explore levers for change such as technological solutions; economic levers, demographics and market forces; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and policy; education and training on accessibility and societal trends.

For the complete agenda, visit the Designing Enabling Economies and Policies conference website at deep2012.idrc.ocad.ca.

Held in conjunction with the DEEP conference, OCAD U will celebrate the official opening of the Inclusive Design Institute (IDI), a research community and regional research hub based at OCAD University that focuses on the inclusive design of emerging information and communication systems and practices. The IDI is funded by the Government of Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund Research Infrastructure program with eight postsecondary institutions as core partners, namely OCAD U, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Sheridan College, George Brown College and Seneca College.

OCAD University and G3ict acknowledge the generous support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Ontario Public Service, Research in Motion Limited, Accessible Media Inc. and IBM Canada. 


Don Tapscott
Don Tapscott has written or co-written 14 widely read books including most recently Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet (Revised Paperback, May 2012). His 1992 bestseller Paradigm Shift helped coin a seminal management concept and his 1995 hit The Digital Economy changed thinking around the world about the transformational nature of the Internet. Two years later he defined the Net Generation and the "digital divide" in Growing Up Digital. His 2000 work, Digital Capital, introduced seminal ideas like "the business web" and was described by BusinessWeek as "pure enlightenment." Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything was the best-selling management book in the United States in 2007 and translated into over 25 languages.

The Economist called Macrowikinomics a "Schumpeterian story of creative destruction" and the Huffington Post said the book is "nothing less than a game plan to fix a broken world." Over 30 years he has introduced many ground-breaking concepts that are part of contemporary understanding.

In 2011, Tapscott was re-named to the Thinkers50 Definitive List of the Top 50 Business Thinkers in the World, earning the ninth spot on the list. He was also a runner up as the World's Leading Thinker on Globalization and Macrowikinomics was runner up for The Best Business Book of the Last Two Years. He is a member of World Economic Forum, and an Adjunct Professor of Management for the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. It is hard to imagine anyone who has been more prolific, profound and influential in explaining the digital revolution and its impact on the world.

Kristyn Wong-Tam
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has an extensive career investing in the City of Toronto through both the public and private sectors. Her contributions have led to the development and support of numerous social planning programs, business ventures, art endeavours and successful community initiatives.

As a tireless community advocate, Councillor Wong-Tam has championed for the expansion of green public spaces, farmers' markets, community gardens including improvements to parks and ravines. She has lead efforts to defend the rights of tenants to obtain affordable and decent standards of rental housing and helped create a neighbourhood association to preserve and protect heritage buildings and historical landscapes in the ward.

Councillor Wong-Tam has a distinguished track record of human rights advocacy and was a co-founder of Asian Canadians For Equal Marriage, and the past president of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter that successfully lobbied the federal government for the head tax apology and redress.

Prior to being elected to City Council in 2010, Councillor Wong-Tam was an accomplished real estate professional and supporter of the arts. She has curated art installations for Scotiabank's Nuit Blanche and is the principal of a Toronto-based contemporary fine art gallery. As a founding member of the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Association, her business advocacy and entrepreneurship focusing on urban economic development, earned her a seat on the Mayor David Miller's Economic Competitiveness Advisory Committee which produced the Agenda for Prosperity in 2008.

Councillor Wong-Tam continues to be a champion for sustainable living and environmental health and plays a vital role in ensuring the vibrancy of our city and its economic and social development. In addition to her city appointments to numerous city boards and agencies, she is also a board member of the University of Toronto Art Centre and the Business Chair at the Toronto Workforce Innovation Group (previously known as the Toronto Training Board).

Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict)
G3ict (http://www.g3ict.org/) is an Advocacy Initiative of the UN GAID, the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, launched in December 2006 in cooperation with the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at UN DESA.  Its mission is to facilitate and support the implementation of the dispositions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the accessibility of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and assistive technologies. G3ict relies on an international network of ICT accessibility experts to develop and promote good practices, technical resources and benchmarks for ICT accessibility advocates around the world.

About OCAD University (OCAD U)
OCAD University (www.ocadu.ca) is Canada's "university of 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 document.

Media are invited to attend. To RSVP or for more information, please contact:

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