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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Net equality could be years away
Woman surfing the net
Women are looking for specific and practical things online
It could take another seven years before men and women are using the net in equal numbers.

That is the conclusion of the latest study of surfing patterns from internet measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

According to its research, in May 2003 42% of European surfers, or 35 million people, were female.

This is only up two percent on the previous year and at that growth rate it will be 2010 before there is gender equality online thinks Nielsen/NetRatings analyst Tom Ewing.

Winning female audiences

But such equality is important if the image of the net as a club for geeks and tech-heads is to be shattered.

"Getting more women online matters," said Mr Ewing.

"There is still the perception of the internet as a very male-dominated place. That needs to change in order for a greater range of sites to win a large female audience," he said.

Sweden and the UK have the highest proportion of women surfers in Europe with over 45% of their net audience female.

Only Italy has less than 40% of women online.

It comes as no surprise that the sites attracting women surfers include shopping, travel, education, health and beauty.

And women seem to go online to get specialised and practical information.

"What's interesting is how well specialised and practical sites do - shopping or local guides for instance - whereas portals specifically designed for women have a much lower profile," said Mr Ewing.

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