Video game industry needs more women, says York prof

Few mainstream video games are made – or marketed – with women in mind, even though nearly 40 per cent of video game players in the United States and Canada are female, wrote the Toronto Star March 4, in a story about two Vancouver women who own a game development company. T

he likely reason? Few women are actually designing the games, wrote the Star.

“If you look at other cultural industries, they don’t have nearly the growth curve that games have had in the past few years,” says Jennifer Jenson, professor of pedagogy & technology at York University [Faculty of Education] and president of the Canadian Game Studies Association. “When almost 75 per cent of women work, to not have them somehow represented in this workforce is excluding them from something that has had massive investment from all these different countries.”

Jenson, who spent more than 10 years studying gender and gaming, found one of the reasons a girl might not break into gaming is access. “Girls don’t often have the context for play that necessarily includes other girls. They may play with their brothers, cousins or fathers.”

“Girls and boys – once they level up – [are] exactly the same,” says Jenson. “Because the game demands that you play a certain way in order to be successful. Once you get rid of the confounding variable of being novice in these environments, girls play very much like the boys.”

Osgoode prof’s study raises concerns about bias on refugee board

If you were a refugee seeking protection in Canada, you wouldn’t want to cross the path of David McBean, wrote the Toronto Star March 4, in a story about a new York study that shows evidence of bias among different adjudicators on the Immigration & Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada.

According to an analysis of IRB data obtained through an access-to-information request, McBean was one of a handful of board members who granted asylum in fewer than 10 per cent of cases last year, said the Star. The others were Anna Brychcy (6.45 per cent), Pasquale A. Fiorino (6.93 per cent), Michele Pettinella (6.67 per cent), Edward Robinson (4.29 per cent), Carolyne Wedgbury (9.66 per cent), Andrea Wojtak (2.94 per cent) and Colleen Zuk (9.46 per cent).

“There is a concern of bias,” said Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Sean Rehaag, who obtained and analyzed the data. “It is an issue if the case outcome hinges on who made the decision. You’re lucky if you had Cathryn Forbes (who granted asylum in 35 out of 35 cases). If you had David McBean, you would have no chance.”

Individual claimants may vary in their personal profiles and circumstances of persecution even if they are from the same country. However, the discrepancies remain when Rehaag controlled the variables such as the country of origin of the claimants.

Rehaag said his data also showed that those claimants who had legal representation at the asylum hearing tended to have a much higher success rate (48.58 per cent) than those who were unrepresented (11.79 per cent). Refugee board members are appointed by the government from a pool of qualified applicants who must pass an exam to prove their knowledge of immigration and refugee issues. The terms are between one and three years. They are paid in the range of $102,300 and $120,400 a year.

Hudak surges in Toronto, poll says

Evidence of “Ford Nation” appears to exist outside of a confident Mayor Rob Ford’s imagination, wrote Postmedia News March 4.

A new poll shows the provincial Progressive Conservatives locked in a dead heat with the Liberals in Toronto, the longtime stronghold of the governing party.

The survey, conducted by Forum Research and obtained exclusively by the National Post, indicates the McGuinty government may be losing its grip on the city as Tory leader Tim Hudak – who has taken a page from Mayor Rob Ford’s “respect for taxpayers” playbook – closes the gap.

The provincial shift to the right, York University political scientist Robert Drummond said, may reflect both the public’s approval of this general sentiment and a growing frustration with the McGuinty Liberals.

“People are feeling the economic pinch at the moment. They’re feeling the hydro rates are a problem,” Drummond [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] said.

Critics say nod to offshore board is patronage

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is being accused of old-style patronage for naming an aide to ex-premier Danny Williams to the offshore oil and gas regulator, wrote The Canadian Press March 4.

Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner shrugged off the criticism Thursday, saying Elizabeth Matthews, former communications director for Williams, is a “great” choice for vice-chairperson of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

Gail Fraser, a York University biologist [Faculty of Environmental Studies] who is studying federal offshore regulations, has criticized the lack of environmental expertise among voting board members in the past. The appointment of Matthews underscores that worker and environmental safety are not top government priorities, she said in an interview Thursday.

Toronto’s flush with unisex washrooms

Sheila Cavanagh, professor of sociology at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], recently published a book called Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality, and the Hygienic Imagination, in which transgendered and other queer interviewees discuss the difficulties that divided bathrooms present, wrote the Toronto Star March 4, in a story about legislation recently passed in the House of Commons, nicknamed the “bathroom bill”.

Cavanagh loves seeing bathroom signs that are victims of their own cleverness, the ones that make it difficult to figure out which door means what, said the Star. “That moment of confusion gives people a moment to pause and wonder, ‘Does that sign fit me or not?’. . . (and to) wonder what it might be like for those whose gender identity isn’t so clear,” she says. “What do you do when you need to use the bathroom but you’re not sure which door to go into?”

At the book launch for Queering Bathrooms at the Gladstone Hotel in November, a York graduate student named Teresa Jewell made washroom signs with a variety of different gender-signifying images – bras, ties, high-heels, pads – and pinned them over the usual male-female signage.

Quotas work better for women

Officials have been calling for more women on boards for about 20 years with little change in their numbers, wrote Ronald Burke, professor emeritus of organizational behaviour & industrial relations in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in a letter to the Toronto Star March 4, responding to a story about women in executive positions in major companies. Angela Ferrante advocates the use of merit over quotas, though noting that quotas work. Merit has obviously not worked for the past 50 years. Do men on boards think they got there because of merit? Some recent company failures have been attributed to unqualified male board members.

Ontario’s “equal pay for work of equal value” legislation has shrunk the pay gap between women and men but not eliminated it. Quotas seem to be the most effective way to increase qualified women’s participation on boards.

Anderson passionate about nutrition, physical activity

Julie Cameron-Anderson [BEd ’91, MEd ’96] believes you don’t have anything if you don’t have your health, wrote Feb. 28.

The York Region District School Board health and physical education consultant has had a hand in influencing local schools and communities to become active and make healthy lifestyle changes for more than five years.

Health, nutrition and physical education have been a passion for Anderson as far back as she can remember. She also comes from a long line of educators, including principals, teachers and a college dean, which only made pursuing a career in teaching a natural step. “I guess I was really inspired by them. Being a teacher, I could combine my passion for health with a career as a physical education teacher,” she said.

After earning her undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University and a master of education from York University and completing teacher’s college, she got her start in Simcoe County, but soon found her way to York, teaching physical education across the region. When the opportunity arose to fill a seat as a consultant at the board level, she couldn’t resist.

One of her greatest accomplishments with the local school board is the creation of the Healthy Schools and Workplaces program, one of the first such school board policies in the province to include workplaces and not just students. The policy recognizes a healthy school climate has a positive impact on student behaviour and success.

Toronto Pan Am Games diversity policy will include procurement

The Toronto Pan Am Games 2015 organizing committee says it has developed the first-ever “diversity policy” for the Games that will mandate offering business opportunities to multicultural communities, wrote the Daily Commercial News March 4.

Areas of the Games included in the policy include procurement, governance, employment and volunteerism.

Projects currently active include the RFQ for the Pan/Parapan Am Aquatic Centre, a combined RFQ for the velodrome/Hamilton stadium/Athletic Stadium at York University and the RFP for the Athletes Village located in the West Don Lands.

Recycle yourself through organ donation, York students told

Lisa Huhn has forged a strong bond with the family of a young boy, whose organs she received after his sudden death, wrote March 3.

Huhn, a 44-year Scarborough resident, shared her story with York University students Wednesday as part of an organ donation campaign called Recycle Me by the Trillium Gift of Life Network.

On air

  • Debra Pepler, Distinguished Research Professor in Psychology in York’s LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research, spoke about a new study on bullying that challenges presumptions about who bullies are, on CBC Radio (St. John’s, NL) March 3.
  • Sheila Embleton, professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and president of the Canada-India Education Council, spoke about proposed legislation changes in India and what they will mean for education systems in both India and Canada, on Radio Canada International’s “The Link” March 3.