Conceptualizing gender differences in behavior
The study says 68 percent of men and 66 percent of women now go online. Since women make up a larger portion of the population, that means they outnumber men in cyberspace.
Although a similar percentage of men and women use the Internet, the study found they often use it quite differently.
The research suggests men largely go online to pursue solitary pursuits, while women use the Internet to enrich their existing relationships.
Men go online to further their hobbies, for example. They are much more likely to use the Internet to read online, take Web classes and take part in sports-fantasy leagues. More men than women will download software and music or use a Web cam.
By contrast, 94 percent of women who go online do so for e-mail. Women see e-mail as a way to nurture friendships. They'll write to family and friends to share news and stories, ask for advice and discuss plans. When men use e-mail, it tends to be for work-related activities or for forwarding jokes or humorous stories. Believe it or not, women are just as likely as men to use the Internet to play games, listen to music, watch videos and share files. And both sexes are equally likely to gamble online. In fact, 4 percent of the population surveyed gambled online.
Both sexes have tapped the Internet as a powerful research tool, but Pew found they seek different information. Men go online to find weather, news, sports, political, financial and do-it-yourself information. For women, searches for health, medical and religious information are more typical.
Women are also more likely to use the Internet to obtain maps and directions. It seems some things never change. Men hate asking for directions so much that many won't even ask a computer!
These results are of course quite predictable. Some because of the different socializations of men and women but many (and it would be interesting to study this in more detail) because of the cognitive models we have available to us for the behavior of genders. The Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus model. Of course, a piece of information such as women looking at maps more is easy to assimilate into this model and as such will be accentuated. However, women equaling men as a percentage of gender and outnumbering them in total numbers is not pointed out as flying in the face of this popular model. This slight cognitive dissonance is assumed and the rest of the article (and quite possibly the research study) is designed to undermine the possibly radical nature of that fact. In fact, most people when asked would probably say that men use the internet more than women but this prediction is not sustained.
(It is not inconceivable that a very tiny and possibly impossible to isolate proportion of the differences is due to some chemical and/or brain-structural differences some of which might even be genetic in origin - kudos to this article for not mentioning that - I wouldn't be surprised, though, if there were others that do.)
Update: It didn't take long and an article with the Mars/Venus headline appeared:
Men Are From Google Women Are From Yahoo. It contains a bit more detail of the survey and begins:
On the Internet, as in life, men and women have different motivations for doing what they do. According to a recent report from Pew Internet and American Life, women view the Internet as a place to extend, support, and nurture relationships and communities.
No surprises there, then. And no attempt to transcend the conventional. I find it interesting that depite their free-spirit and open-mindedness in many areas the tech community is very traditionalist and conservative when it comes to gender. The possible reasons are too obvious to mention and as such probably too simplistic.
Another example of the selective progressivism of any group or movement (some conservatism is simply necessary to maintain the community).