Pew: Online Gender Gap Shrinks, But Sexes Use Web Differently

These days, women and men go online in almost equal proportions, but what they do on the Web is another matter entirely. Men are more likely than women to check weather and news, download music, and get financial information; women are more likely to look for health and medical information, use e-mail, and--clichéd though it may be--seek out maps and directions online than are men. Those are some of the findings of a new study that examines gender and Internet use, by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The report, "How Women and Men Use the Internet," found that 68 percent of men were Internet users as of September, compared with 66 percent of women. Those figures represent gains for women from March of 2000, when a previous Pew study found that 49 percent of men and 44 percent of women used the Web. For the report, Pew looked at several separate telephone surveys it conducted between March 2000 and September 2005; the total number of respondents in 2005 alone was 6,403.

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Currently, one of the most pronounced gender differences is that more men than women have high-speed connections at home; 52 percent of men use broadband at home, while just 48 percent of women do so.

Men also tend to use the Web for entertainment--by taking part in sports fantasy leagues or listening to Internet radio, among other activities. Women, on the other hand, are more enthusiastic e-mail users.

Specifically, 94 percent of online women say they send e-mail, compared to 88 percent of online men; 87 percent of women get maps or directions online, compared to 82 percent of men; and 74 percent of women use the Web for health and medical information, compared to 58 percent of men.

Seventy-five percent of online men use the Web to receive news, compared to 69 percent of women; 56 percent of men get financial information online, compared to 33 percent of women; 54 percent of men do job-related research, compared to 48 percent of women; and 38 percent of men listen to radio broadcasts online, compared to 20 percent of women.

Men were also more inclined to download music files--30 percent of men did so, compared to 20 percent of women--and video files--22 percent of men, compared to 13 percent of women.

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