Study: Women Outnumber Men on the Web in America.
August 9, 2000 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Study: Women Outnumber Men on the Web in America. I wonder in what ways will these changing demographics affect the web? And in the blog community, do women and men blog differently?
posted by BoyCaught (19 comments total)
I think that you do a great disservice to both men and women when you break things down by gender this way - it just isn't a meaningful statistic, you know?

posted by kristin at 10:01 AM on August 9, 2000

I dunno, kristin. I've heard people planning websites saying things like "We're targeting the wide audience of web-savvy young people online, and we know there are more men than women online so we'll skew our site's features towards men"... so it's nice to have statistics now to refute that.
posted by wiremommy at 10:05 AM on August 9, 2000

Women outnumber men on the Web in America by 0.4%While the web and internet have been male-dominated for so long, all this says is that Internet demographics are coming into parity with the general population. Historically, women have outnumbered men by an ever so slight margin because little boys are sickly.
posted by rschram at 10:06 AM on August 9, 2000

Who cares what the statistics are, as long as my chances to get some hot cyber-sex ack-shun increase, I'm happy.
posted by tiaka at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2000

I'm not so concerned about the statistics, per se. I'm concerned about the general trend, which I do believe is meaningful. If more and more women are using the web, and if, in fact, they use it for different things and different reasons than men do, I wonder how that will change the web.
posted by BoyCaught at 10:13 AM on August 9, 2000

... for instance, to get tiaka some more ack-shun!
posted by BoyCaught at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2000

I wonder if this takes into account all the 16 year old boys and 55 year old men pretending to be lesbians . . .
posted by alan at 10:29 AM on August 9, 2000

"I wonder how that will change the web"

It won't. Because we (women) have been here, all along, in growing numbers, and as our numbers grew, the web changed, in the same way it changed to accomodate every other possible demographic that found a place here. The evolution of the web changes every day, with every user. It isn't like today, when the statistic stands at 50.4 percent female users, now, NOW the web is going to change into something different. So, now there are slightly more women than men - are we saying women didn't matter until they gained a slight majority, or that they had no influence on the evolution of the web until the moment that they gained that slight majority?

It has been changing all along, in a zillion different directions, that have very little to do with gender.

I guess studies like this make it seem like I think with my ovaries, and that having ovaries is a great way to group people together, ahead of things like socio-economic background, or education level, or sense of humour, or technical skill, or any of the millions of ways people differ from one another.

posted by kristin at 11:00 AM on August 9, 2000

I am going to honestly and seriously agree with alan. so many people on the web pretend to be people that they aren't... is the study taking that into account? how can anyone study that sort of thing, anyway?
posted by elf_baby at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2000

These surveys (without doing anything so productive as actually *reading* the story, mind :-) are usually conducted by telephone. It's not *that* difficult for a telephone interviewer to discern whether they're being lied to about age and sex...
posted by baylink at 11:28 AM on August 9, 2000

Heh. I just got this image of the surveyors logging into efnet and asking "m or f?" to everyone they met. Now, *that's* a methodology.

I'm pretty sure that the reported results are based on something a little more reliable than cruising chat and discussion areas.
posted by sylloge at 12:15 PM on August 9, 2000

I guess studies like this make it seem like I think with my ovaries

Maybe women don't think with their ovaries, but I bet more people would agree that many men often think with their corresponding sex organs. So if there are more women on the web, maybe that means there are more level-headed, rational people out there and website creators can tailor their content more towards that.
posted by daveadams at 12:37 PM on August 9, 2000

daveadams, thanks. you put into words what I could have easily said much more awkwardly.
posted by BoyCaught at 12:49 PM on August 9, 2000


Well said! Women haven't waited for permission to change the web, they have been acting -- both as computer geeks, and as women -- since the Internet was created.

Maybe people will change the way they create web content if they realized that women participate online as much as men do? Maybe, but I think it's more important to note that web designers who act on the basis of demographic statistics suffer from the idea that "[gender] people think with their [gender] organ!" and might redistribute their efforts according to the latest pie chart. The point is that they'll still be creating the same crap aimed at men or women -- just in different amounts.

The most successful websites are the ones that appeal to people as themselves, on their own terms, not on the basis of targeting. Easier to swallow when your not being forcefed.
posted by rschram at 12:58 PM on August 9, 2000

here's what I found interesting about the survey:

--women are most attracted to gender-neutral sites

there's been a lot of talk about getting women to use the new technologies, girls getting left behind, and targeting women as an untapped market.

but you don't have to cater (or pander, as your take may be) to women to get them to use the web. you just need to give them access to things they are interested in.

and it turns out they're interested in stuff besides "women's things"

I was always a bit puzzled by the spate of "women's sites" but I thought maybe I was so far outside the mainstream that I didn't have a clear picture of what most women wanted. turns out, I was right all along, and in view of this, I am free to have my initial reaction, which was that there's something just a little bit patronizing about creating a site for women. clearly men and women as groups typically have some different sets of interests (and I have to admit that I've never looked at a "women's site") but how different are they really? turns out, not that much.

--30% of men look at womens's sites
again, interesting, entertaining content, and content about specialized subjects (like maybe child-rearing? I don't know what's actually on those sites) will appeal to anyone. the woman's response to that ("I guess we have a lot of good generic content") is pretty insulting, I think. again, I'm speaking as someone who doesn't actually know what goes on there, but it seems to me that a subject *like* child-rearing, or relationships, or cooking, or whatever just might interest a man who is doing those things.

don't get me started on the commoditization of groups....

posted by rebeccablood at 2:11 PM on August 9, 2000

And I still can't find a girlfriend. Sigh.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:13 PM on August 9, 2000

I don't know why anyone would object to the studies when the studies are showing that women don't "think with their ovaries". In fact, the whole point of this survey really backs up kristin's point of view. That's why we have studies like this -- to tell us whether or not our assumptions are correct.

It doesn't have to be patronizing, either, to make use of it. Technology sites getting sparse female visitors? One solution might be a women's tech site, but this study suggests that may not be the best approach. And it doesn' t mean adding a recipe-software column to eWeek, either. It may mean adjusting the way a site presents its information or skews its articles; we've known for a long time that men are often happy with rah-rah-latest-crap technology reviews (like car mags), while women are more interested in what you can actually get done with a given setup.

I think there's also a lot of knee-jerk reactions here, at Slashdot, and elsewhere, to the effect of "Don't study me! I'm not a lab rat!" Well, sheesh, it's part of society now. It's GOING to be studied.
posted by dhartung at 3:06 PM on August 9, 2000

maybe I didn't make myself clear: I was gratified to discover that my personal experience was, in this case, reflected by the usage of the women in this study.

my knee-jerk is really in response to the idea I've seen accepted as common knowledge that women need content that is "targeted" at them in order to get them to use the web. I guess the underlying assumptions there that offend me are

a) women aren't using the web because they're afraid of/not interested in computers (I'm not denying that there's not a fear-factor out there; I ran across it every day trying to get the secretaries in my department use our intranet--mostly the older women in the group) but the web is easy; I think the answer was probably something like women who don't use the web don't see the value in doing so.

b) we can get women online if we provide "women's content" for them. obviously we have magazines and movies and media of all sorts targeted at women, but the idea that women are *only* interested in those things is in no way borne out by my experience of women of all age/race/religious groups. I find women to be interested in lots of things, and I'm surprised that anyone is so quick to identify such a narrow category of things as being of interesting to women. (being of *special interest* to women makes some sense, since there are tasks that women are still primarily more responsible for and often more interested in than men typically are. but few women's interests stop there.)

mainly I was interested in the fact that--by so narrowly defining their target audiences--they not only wildly mis-estimated the actual interests of their target, but missed out on a large chunk of their actual audience.

I sort of like it when people shoot themselves in the foot by underestimating individuals. :)

posted by rebeccablood at 3:24 PM on August 9, 2000


I only object to the study insofar as it seems to be destined to be consumed by the great American marketing machine, which for the most part makes a mush of "studies". This "study" was paid for by a consulting firm, so I don't really see it as a breakthrough of cyberanthropology.

Studies of gender (read: women) are great examples. The great question of the ad-man, politician, you-name-it
is "What does woman want?" And they seek their answers in patterns of behavior. This is circular, since it assumes that gender-linked patterns and sexual difference are the same thing. There's a huge gap!

Hence the "unexpected" result that a female user will opt for Yahoo! over iVillage. Now, I could imagine that iVillage might read the study and say, "Our view of women as women is insufficient." I can also imagine Yahoo! pumping $$$ into new girls-only sections, thereby missing the whole point that the lens of gender has some blind-spots.

To paraphrase Rebecca, I like it when people shoot themselves in the foot by underestimating the insufficiency of their oversimplified categories.

posted by rschram at 3:46 PM on August 9, 2000

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