The percentage of women using the Internet still trails the percentage of men slightly, though they are catching up in overall use and framing their online experience with a greater emphasis on deepening connections with people, according to a study released last week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
“If there is an overall pattern of differences here, it is that men value the Internet for the breadth of experiences it offers and women value it for the human connections,” said Deborah Fallows, Pew senior research fellow, who authored the report, “How Women and Men Use the Internet.”
The report found that more online men than women perform transactions, and that while men and women are equally likely to use the Internet to buy products and do online banking, men are more likely to use it to pay bills, participate in auctions, trade stocks and bonds and pay for digital content.
Men online also are more likely to: check the weather, get news, get do-it-yourself information, check for sports information, get political information, get financial information, do job-related research, download software, listen to music, rate a product/person/service through an online reputation system, download music files, use a Webcam and take a class.
Women online are more likely to: use e-mail, get maps and directions, seek health and medical information, use sites to get support for health or personal problems and get religious information.
For many online activities, the growth rate for women's participation exceeds that of men, including: using government Web sites, getting religious information, watching video clips or listening to audio clips, getting news and researching products.
Women are more enthusiastic online communicators, and they use e-mail in a more robust way, the report found. Women are more likely than men to use e-mail to write to friends and family about various topics and are more likely to feel satisfied with e-mail's role in their lives, especially in nurturing of relationships. Men use e-mail more than women to communicate with organizations.
But the report also found that men and women are more similar than different in their online lives, starting with their common appreciation of the Internet's strongest suit: efficiency. They also value the Internet because it allows access to large amounts of information.
However, to get this information, men use search engines more aggressively and more often than women, and with more confidence. Women are more likely to see the vast array of online information as a “glut” and to penetrate deeper into areas where they have the greatest interest.
“Women tend to treat information gathering online as a more textured and interactive process — one that includes gathering and exchanging information through support groups and personal e-mail exchanges,” the report found. Highlights from the report:
* 68 percent of men are Internet users versus 66 percent of women. Because they make up more of the population, the total number of women online now surpasses the number of men.
* 86 percent of women ages 18-29 are online versus 80 percent of men that age.
* 34 percent of men 65 and older are online versus 21 percent of women that age.
* 60 percent of black women are online versus 50 percent of black men.
* On a typical day, 67 percent of online men use the Internet versus 64 percent of women.
* 52 percent of men have broadband connections at home versus 48 percent of women.
* 50 percent of men have changed the browser home page on their computer versus 34 percent of women.