Web-browsing habits enforce gender stereotypes

Survey finds that while women have been catching up with men in their Internet use, the activities they partake in vary widely from those of their male counterparts

When it comes to Internet use, men tend to devote more time each week to playing games and researching techie gadgets, while women log on to chat with friends, shop and plan vacations.

Released this week, Forrester Research's most recent study of how Europeans use technology surveyed 22,662 consumers in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden to learn more about what drives men and women to the Internet. The survey found that while women have been catching up with men in their Internet use -- 54 percent of European women use the Internet compared with 62 percent of men -- the activities they partake in vary widely from those of their male counterparts.

"The Internet is just another channel for women to do what they enjoy: shopping, talking, and caring," the report reads. "Men, on the other hand, take care of the technology side of the house: They are more likely to research and buy DVDs and computer goods, for example."

Forrester says that because women tend to do more-personal, less-technical activities online, they also are less likely than men to use the Internet as an information source for product purchases or read consumer reviews for, say, automobiles or technical gear.

"Compared with men, women are more likely to research and buy clothes, health and beauty products, and holiday travel online; they send greeting cards more often; and they are more likely to buy products for others," the report states.

While men are more likely to be online in general, they also stay online longer on average. According to Forrester's study, men spend more than two hours longer online each week than women, devoting most of that time to playing games. The study shows that in the past four years, the average time spent on the Internet by European users has increased from 7.3 hours to 8.4 hours per week.

"Young women are equally likely to be online as young men, but they report spending up to 3Â hours less per week on the Internet than their young male counterparts," the report reads.

The results of this recent Forrester study of European men and women are consistent with those of a similar 2005 study Forrester conducted with North American Internet users, which showed that while men and woman are equally likely to be online, gender stereotypes persisted in the activities they chose to indulge in on the Internet.

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Denise Dubie

Network World
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