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Photography by Kourosh Keshiri


Vice-President, Research and Innovation; Founder and Director, Diversity Institute, Ryerson University


Wendy leads the strategy that contributes $30 million annually towards the university

Publications: 35 in 2012

Founder of the Diversity Institute, she leads a $2.7-million initiative with more than 30 partners


Jocelyne Côté-O’Hara, a senior executive in the telecom and IT fields for more than 20 years

From Jocelyne Côté-O’Hara

As told to Allison Lawlor

It’s hard to say “no” to Wendy. When she wants something, she picks up the phone, explains what she’s after—whether it’s for you to join a research project, a lobby group or a board—pauses, then lets out her friendly, telltale chuckle before ask­ing: “Don’t you want to be part of this?”

She doesn’t try to go it alone. She’s a team player with an incredible knack for finding her way to the vortex of society’s most pressing social change or technological innovation. And she’s fearless.

Today, she’s at the centre of university research. As Ryerson University’s vice-president of research and innovation, she has pushed the institution to become number one in Ontario and fourth in Canada for research growth. Last year, the university’s research funding was more than $30 million.

After starting her current job in 2011, she marched to Ottawa with the message that Ryerson deserved a bigger cut of the country’s university research dollars. To be effective, she knew she had to elicit the support of people like me, who, having spent my career as a senior executive in the telecom and information technology in­dustries, could make some calls and gather key allies. She knows how to lead. She’s shown that throughout her career.

More than 20 years ago, as president and co-founder of the Coalition for Gun Control (CGC), an alliance of more than 300 major policing, public safety and violence preven­tion organizations, Wendy set out to reduce gun death, injury and crime in the country.

Wendy launched the CGC in the wake of the 1989 Montreal massacre, after 14 women were fatally shot at Ecole Polytechnique by Marc Lépine, who was armed with a semi-automatic weapon. There was no national gun control association at the time; Wendy saw a void and filled it. She knows how to get things done. She is engaging and inclusive and doesn’t have a big ego.

Wendy and the CGC were instrumental in pressuring the Liberals to introduce a bill, in 1995, requiring the licensing of all gun owners and registration of all firearms, and she has been an active proponent of its cause ever since.

As the associate dean at the Ted Rogers School of Management from 2004 to 2011, she implemented several new MBA programs and expanded Ryerson’s research activities.

A leading researcher, she heads several projects, including the $2.7-million initia­tive DiversityLeads, assessing the progress of diversity in leadership. Having written more than 200 papers on technology, innovation and management, she is also co-author of the 2002 bestseller Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership from Java to Jurassic Park. You can’t say she hasn’t had influence.