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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 07:56 GMT
Gender gap alive and well online
Woman using laptop, AP
Women use the net to keep up human ties, finds research
Gender divisions persist online but it is no longer about whether more men or women use the net, research shows.

A study by the Pew Internet Project found that roughly the same percentage of men and women in the US are serious internet users.

But the research found that men value the net for the freedom it gives them to try new ways of doing things.

By contrast women like the opportunities the net gives them to make and maintain human connections.

Separate lives

The wide-ranging report from Pew dissected how men and women used the net and uncovered some striking differences.

One finding suggests that the number of women online already outnumbers that of men.

Figures gathered by Pew suggest that 68% of men are net users, compared to 66% of women. However, the total number of net-using women is higher because there are more women than men in the general US population.

In some sections of the population online, this divide is more pronounced. For instance 60% of black women are net users compared to 50% of black men.

This moment in internet history will be gone in a blink
Deborah Fallows
Pew Internet Project
The study found that both men and women prize the net for the help it gives them to be more efficient and get many mundane tasks, such as paying bills, over with quickly.

But it is in the ways that men and women use the net that the bigger differences show up, shows the report which was based on interviews with more than 6,000 people.

Men tend to be first to try out new net technologies and 68% of the men questioned are the administrator of a household's computer compared to 45% of women.

The Pew report also found that men are more likely to use the net to get at all kinds of information about sports results, weather, news, job offers and consumer ratings for goods and services.

A woman's use of the net is more likely to involve greater use of e-mail as well as searches for health and medical information, map directions and religious material.

When gathering information women tended to prefer to use e-mail exchanges with individuals and support groups.

Women also tended to use e-mail to communicate with friends and family, to keep in touch and to maintain social ties. By contrast men tended to use e-mail as a way to maintain links with organisations rather than individuals.

Men were also more likely to use the net for recreation and to listen to music, gather information for hobbies and take part in online fantasy sports leagues.

"This moment in internet history will be gone in a blink," said Deborah Fallows, senior research fellow at Pew who wrote the report.

"We may soon look back on it as a charming, even quaint moment, when men reached for the farthest corners of the internet, trying and experimenting with whatever came along, and when women held the internet closer and tried to keep it a bit more under control."

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