Fem-LED Digital Enterprise


OCAD University’s DMRII is committed to inspiring and championing women to be equipped, consider and embrace leadership in digital media enterprises in order to fully participate in the growing opportunities of the sector. To realize this future, we are focused in applied research that will catalyze change, create new programs to support and expand cultural media enterprises, contribute to the growth of new employment opportunities and support innovation by fostering new models of digital media.

The main Goals of the Fem-LED research project are as follows:

  1. Bringing together researchers and digital practitioners across a range of different disciplinary boundaries to share expertise and to work towards the development of new knowledge, new understanding of the gender divide in ICT to form a coherent plan of action to make change possible.
  2. Building a network of academics and industry that develops outputs that can be disseminated to those in a position to implement the changes needed.
  3. Exploring new forms of participatory workshop research to focus on barriers to engage in enterprise and leadership.


The Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada has released its Quarterly Monitor of Canada’s Digital Economy, spring 2014 edition of Strengthening Canada’s Digital Advantage (SCDA), explores broad economic trends with respect to the digital economy labour market, technology developments and adoption. The report states that the ICT employment in 2014 by indicates a huge difference between the genders (this is a trend for a number of years). In Ontario 299,000 men to 88,000 women or 23% are employed in the sector.

Moreover as part of the overall Digital Economy, there is an increased concern worldwide over the lack of diversity in the digital games sector. Recent statistics reveal that although up to half of game players are women that, according to the Skillset 2009 U.K. census, women represent 4% of the games workforce, this consists of a 8% drop since the previous census in 2006.

The European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe, 2020 Initiative, indicates that only 30% of the ICT global workforce is women and they are underrepresented at all levels of the ICT sector, especially in decision-making positions. The Commission estimates that by 2020 there will be a lack of 900,000 skilled ICT workers and is alarmed that only 4% of all female graduates are enrolled in ICT–related degrees. Commencing in March 2014, the European Commission initiated a campaign to find and celebrate digital role models and plans to expand the program to include women network programming.

In Canada, the Royal Bank of Canada Report on Women ENTREPRENEURS outlines that women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing segments of the Canadian economy and represent a growing economic force, between 1991 and 2001, women's self-employment expanded by 43%. It is evident from the latest Census that women are driving the growth of self-employment sector. However there is a gap of accurate data and understanding what percentage of women entrepreneurs are in decision-making roles within the gaming and user-built digital environments sector. The understanding of the gap is significant in light of the necessity of understanding why gender matters in entrepreneurship, in specifically in digital media enterprises. 


Come participate in our project: “Focus On Fem-Led” led by OCAD University!

This research explores the enablers and barriers for female leadership in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), this includes: Game Design, Systems Integration, Platform development, etc.

We are looking for participation from female entrepreneurs, intra-preneurs (change makers inside organizations), researchers, practitioners, and key community group leaders to participate in our research.

There are three ways to get involved:

  1. Be a part of our questionnaire on enablers and barriers for women in ICTs (click here)
  2. Get on our mail list to receive reports and be alerted to Fem-led talks and future activities
  3. Come for a Body Storm - August 21, 2015 in Central Toronto (click here)

We look forward to your participation!



Please take our Questionnaire conducted on behalf of the Fem-led research group at OCAD University. This questionnaire is for women working in Interactive and Digital Media or the broader ICT industry:

Link to Questionnaire:


Consent Information below.


You are invited to participate in a study that involves research with human participants. The purpose of this study is to understand potential enablers and barriers to female leadership in Information Communication Technology sectors, and Interactive and Digital Media in Particular. It has been funded by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) and is being conducted by Researchers at OCAD University.

As a participant, you are being asked to participate in an online questionnaire about your experiences and opinions on the issues relating to women, leadership and technology.

Possible benefits of participation include deepening an understanding on the status of women in digital media and other technologies, and a contribution to findings and proposals for change. Personally, you may benefit from this exercise of reflection on your journey and achievements.

Possible risks for the participants of this study include potential psychological and social risks that may be greater than those encountered in everyday life. The nature of the research is to explore your opinions and to learn about your experiences in your professional life. You may find this psychologically uncomfortable or fear that you may reveal something that could impact on your career negatively if it becomes communicated broadly. To mitigate risk, this questionnaire is confidential. You may also decline to answer any questions or to withdraw from the questionnaire completely.

The information participants provide will be kept confidential, i.e. participant names or other identifiers will not appear in any report resulting from this study.

Data collected for this questionnaire is anonymous and during this study will be collected online and then stored on a secure, pass-word protected hard drive and locked in cabinet. Data will be kept for up to one year after the completion of this study: January 16, 2017, after which time your data will be destroyed. Access to this data will be restricted to principal investigator and researchers named above.

Participation in this study is voluntary. If you wish, you may decline to answer any questions or participate in any component of the study.  As the questionnaire is anonymous, we cannot extract your data at a future date once you have submitted the questionnaire.

Results of this study will be presented in a report to the OMDC, it will also be published online, in presentations to conferences and colloquia. In any publication, questionnaire data will be presented in aggregate forms and with confidentiality.

If you have any questions about this study or require further information, please contact the Principal Investigator Prof. Suzanne Stein (sstein@faculty.ocadu.ca). This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through the Research Ethics Board at OCAD University [100347]. If you have any comments or concerns, please contact the Research Ethics Office through cpineda@ocadu.ca.

Date: May 3, 2015    
Project Title: Focus on Fem-Led

Principal Investigator:
Professor Suzanne Stein
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences
OCAD University
(416) 315-1896

Collaborating Faculty:
Professors Emma Westecott, Paula Gardner and Lynne Heller.
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences
OCAD University
(416) 977-6000
Collaborating Researchers: Jill Sharrock , Prateeksha Singh and Mithula Naik.

Thank you for your assistance in this project.  

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.

Contact Us

Suzanne Stein
230 Richmond Street West, Room (8)310, Level 3  Toronto, ON M5V 2CS
Phone: 416.977.6000 Ext. 4584
Email: sstein@faculty.ocadu.ca
Web: http://research.ocadu.ca/superordinary

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Our Partners & Collaborators

Mission Business
femTech Net
Institute on Research for Digital Learning

Funding for this project is provided by Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)

Body storm Workshop
Ontario Media Development Corporation Logo
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 6:45pm
Lab Member: 
Suzanne Stein
Lynne Heller
Paula Gardner
Mithula Naik

Feminist digital initiative challenges universities’ race for MOOCs

Monday, August 26, 2013 - 4:00am

(Toronto—August 26, 2013) FemTechNet, a network of feminist scholars and educators, is launching a new model for online learning at 15 higher education institutions this fall, including OCAD University. The Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC), is a new approach to collaborative learning and an alternative to MOOCs, the massive open online course model that proponents claim will radicalize twenty-first century higher education. FemTechNet’sfirst DOCC course, “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology,” will launch fall 2013.

The DOCC model for 21st-century higher education recognizes and is built on the understanding that expertise is distributed throughout a network, among participants in diverse institutional contexts. This model explicitly departs from the typical MOOC approach organized around the delivery of information from an “expert” faculty (or a pair of instructors) to the uninformed "masses." The organization of a DOCC emphasizes learning collaboratively in a digital age by enabling the active participation of all kinds of learners (as teachers, as students, as media-makers, as activists, as trainers, as members of various publics and/or social groups). By virtue of its reach across institutions and learning sites, the DOCC also enables the extension of classroom experience beyond the walls, physical or virtual, of a single institution.

The participating institutions range from small liberal arts colleges to major research institutions. They include: Bowling Green State University, Brown University, California Polytechnic State University, Colby-Sawyer College, The CUNY Graduate Center, Macaulay Honors College and Lehman College (CUNY), The New School, Ohio State University, OCAD University, Pennsylvania State University, Pitzer College, Rutgers University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Yale University.

Faculty members at each institution (working singly or in teams) have developed courses within their specific educational setting. Both faculty and students will share ideas, resources, and assignments as a feminist network: the faculty as they develop curricula, and deliver the course in real time; and the students as they work collaboratively with faculty and with each other at their institutions and beyond. Participants may engage as onsite or online students enrolled in a course, or as "at-large" or "drop-in" learners.

At OCAD University, the Digital Futures Initiative will offer “Dialogues in Feminism and Technology” (DIGF 5B90), taught by Dr. Maria-Belén Ordóñez, to graduate and senior undergraduate students. This project has been realized and initiated through the ongoing collaboration of FemTechNet scholars at OCAD U including Dr. Paula Gardner, Dr. Caroline Langill and Dr. Sara Diamond.  Feminist scholars whose research is in media, technology and science at OCAD U will be collaborating through organized discussions that will ultimately facilitate the development of FemTechNet initiatives. A public panel discussion and two video dialogues featuring feminist scholars will be recorded live at OCAD U on September 27: 

Dialogues on Feminism and Technology
September 27, 6 to 8 p.m.
Free and open to the public


  • Dr. Sara Diamond, President, OCAD University
  • Dr. Paula Gardner, Associate Professor, Liberal Arts and Sciences & School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Graduate Studies; Co-Director, Mobile Experience Lab


  • Dr. Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Media Studies and Professor of Media Studies, The New School


  • Dr. Brenda Laurel, Chair and Professor at the California College of the Arts Graduate Program of Design
  • Dr. Janet Murray, Professor, Graduate Program in Digital Media, School of Literature, Communication and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Dr. Kim Sawchuk, Professor, Concordia University
  • Shu Lea Cheang, multimedia artist

Generously supported by a Connection Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

These dialogues are also anchored by video curriculum produced by FemTechNet. “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology” are currently twelve recorded video dialogues featuring pairs of scholars and artists from around the world who think and reimaginetechnology through a feminist lens. Participants in the DOCC — indeed, anyone with a connection to the web — can access the video dialogues, and are invited to discuss them by means of blogs, voice threads and other electronic media. As the course meets, students and teachers can plug in and join the conversation. Through the exchanges and the participants’ input, course content for the DOCC will continue to grow. From this process emerges a dynamic and self-reflective educational model.

The DOCC’s feminist focus highlights the interactions of art, science and technology as foundational knowledge areas for the twenty-first century and aspires to create innovative learning contexts that value the voices and expertise of both students and faculty.

While the DOCC initiative will be piloted primarily in North America, international participation in future projects ensures the kind of challenging dialogue and stakeholder inclusiveness necessary to imagine, and then create, more equitable and socially just educational models in the digital world.

About OCAD University
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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For more information please contact:

Sarah Mulholland, OCAD U Marketing & Communications
416 977 6000 x327
mobile: x1327

Dialogues on Feminism and Technology

Dialogues on Feminism and Technology
Friday, September 27, 2013 - 10:00pm to Monday, December 16, 2013 - 9:45pm

A Roundtable Discussion

Introduction: Sara Diamond and Paula Gardner

Moderator: Anne Balsamo, The New School

Brenda Laurel, California College of the Arts Graduate Program of Design.

Janet Murray, Georgia Institute of Technology

Kim Sawchuk, Concordia University

Shu Lea Cheang, Multimedia Artist







Venue & Address: 
Auditorium, Room 190 100 McCaul St. Toronto, Ontario