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The Gender Game Plays Out Online

By Sarah Klein

We weren’t kidding about the surge of Online Moms joining the technological world. According to the technology analyst company eMarketer, 103 million U.S. women use the Internet, compared to 96 million men. “Men Online,” an April report profiling the differences in online behavior between men and women, predicts that men will remain the minority at least through 2013.

But even though women are leading the charge on the Internet, the manner in which they participate online is still vastly different from men. In fact, as a recent Fortune Magazine article explained, the report found that gender determines online behavior more strongly than any other factor, including race and economic status.

Most simply, men visit more sites than women and stay longer. eMarketer suggests the length of time spent on a site may be affected by ads. Women tend to quickly abandon sites that are more heavily cluttered with ads. Men are also more mobile when it comes to Internet use, whether on laptops or phones with wireless connections.

Advertisers still use stereotypes to target gender-specific audiences. They focus on sports, technology, and news sites for men, and health care and parenting for women. However, not all stereotypical differences prove true in the online world. When it comes to parenting sites, Online Dads and Online Moms are equally likely to surf the web for information to improve their children’s lives. And despite finance once being considered a male-only territory, men and women today participate in equal measure in online banking activity.

Sometimes though, the stereotypes do play out in online life. For example, men and women are equally likely to shop online, but men are more likely to quickly find what they are looking for and check out immediately. Women spend more time clicking through the options, just as it is assumed they spend more time browsing at the mall. Men, often thought to need more visual stimulation, spend more time online watching videos. However, while women are usually considered to be more verbal, the study found that they use online communication tools, like e-mail or social networking sites, about the same amount of time as men!

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