How Women are Shaping the Internet
Ten years ago, USA Today published an article, based on comScore Media Metrix data, stating that the number of women on the Web in the U.S. had surpassed the number of men. Even at the time, when the U.S. Internet audience was only 75.7 million, it was clear that men and women used the Web differently. Juggling different demands, women used the Internet as a productivity tool, while men were primarily engaged in downloading software, experimenting with new technology and using it as a form of entertainment. Sites with the highest female proportions in their audiences included women and teen magazine sites, health sites and apparel and baby goods retailer sites.
Since then, the global Internet landscape has changed tremendously: the majority of Web users are now in Asia, audiences in Latin America and the Middle East/Africa are growing rapidly and the continuing emergence of new technologies (e.g. flash, broadband, Wi-Fi, 3G mobile) has helped generate new content areas and innovative ways of using the Web that few could have imagined ten years ago. New Web technologies have enabled behaviors that simply didn’t exist before, such as social networking, photo sharing, blogging, location-based activities and more. But true to form, men and women adopt these technologies at different rates and for different reasons, and in important ways that all stakeholders in the digital ecosystem need to understand.
Everyone from advertisers to content producers to agencies to non-profits to politicians and policy makers can benefit from understanding Web usage through a gender-specific lens. While some female behaviors are somewhat obvious, others are quite surprising. What we thought we knew about how moms, college girls, and retirees use the Web is constantly evolving. So if there is even a trace of a cultural anthropologist in you, and if you are curious about what can be learned by passively observing how women use the Web across the world, then read on.