"There are no girls on the internet."
December 6, 2016 3:02 AM   Subscribe

Many men on the internet think that there are no - or at least not very many - women on the internet. I want actual demographic data, but it turns out to be complicated. I also have some more specific types of data I'm looking for.

My dream data would be "approximately X% of communication on the internet is written by women," but I can come up with all sorts of reasons that 's unlikely. So I'll take pretty much all data that helps provide a clear picture of how internet use breaks down between men and women. Especially data that helps explain that "yes, there are lots of women on the internet, but this is why you might think the internet is more male-dominated than it is."

I'm looking for actual numbers / facts, not "lots of women don't reveal their gender." (How many women? Even if it's for a specific site, numbers are informative.)

Also, I suspect that, in addition to the normal stereotypes about women and tech, one of the reasons for this idea is that men self-segregate--not just onto websites like Reddit, but also, within websites that are more gender balanced. For example, I suspect that a man is less likely to follow a woman on Twitter than vice versa, just like a man is less likely to pick up a novel by a woman than vice versa. I have vague recollections of reading something about this, but I can't hit on the right keywords to find it. Ideas?
posted by Kutsuwamushi to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Here in the UK, OFCOM (the national communications regulator) publish an 'Adults' Media Use and Attitudes' reports which breaks down some internet usage by gender. This is the 2016 report. Some elements that might help with what you're looking for:
"While men are as likely as women to go online using any device (both 87%), they are more likely to go online using six particular devices: a computer (75% vs. 68%), a games console or player (18% vs. 13%), a smart TV (16% vs. 11%), a DVR (10% vs. 5%), a streaming media player (6% vs. 4%) and wearable tech (2% vs. 0%). Women are more likely than men to go online via a smartphone (67% vs. 62%), to use devices other than a computer to go online (77% vs. 72%) and to use only devices other than a computer to go online (19% vs. 12%)."

"Men are more likely than women to use the internet at least weekly for news (53% vs. 34%), leisure information (42% vs. 36%) and downloading software (18% vs. 9%). Women are more likely than men to use the internet at least weekly for social media (75% vs. 66%)." [there's a more detailed graph of this on p.39, which also has women doing slightly more 'general surfing/browsing' than men.]
posted by Catseye at 3:28 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is this what you're looking for?
posted by Kwadeng at 3:29 AM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Pew Center has some related studies:
Americans' Internet Access: 2000-2015
Social Media Update 2016
Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms
How Women and Men Use the Internet (very dated, but interesting)

Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking has several good articles but they're behind a paywall. You might be able to access them through your library's website and/or get them via interlibrary loan.

And this may be the article you mentioned: Why Men Are Retweeted More Than Women.
posted by xylothek at 4:06 AM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

These are great so far.

Xylothek, that's not the article, but thank you for the link anyway. I vaguely remember something that specifically addressed gender patterns in follows, by gender.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:43 AM on December 6, 2016

fivethirtyeight had this article last week: "We Asked 8,500 Internet Commenters Why They Do What They Do"

Female 23%
Male 76%
Other 1%

It was a self-reported survey, so not scientific. But, the article cites another survey - "News Commenters and News Comment Readers" - that had very similar results. "Americans who leave news comments, who read news comments, and who do neither are demographically distinct. News commenters are more male, have lower levels of education, and have lower incomes compared to those who read news comments." This survey seems more rigorous and breaks the data down by gender in a bunch of different ways.

If the majority of commenters on news sites are men, then that would help explain a general perception by men that the majority of internet communication is men.
posted by gatorae at 5:56 AM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

[A couple deleted. Sorry, but this isn't the right place for a discussion on the general topic. OP has asked for "actual numbers / facts, not 'lots of women don't reveal their gender,'" so while various thoughts or opinions about possibilities may be true, this is a request for data. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:52 AM on December 6, 2016

I have access to some comprehensive comScore data from 2014. It splits web visits to the top 1000 sites in 7 markets (western europe, plus US & Japan) by gender of the browser. comScore is a pretty credible source, but has the same method issues as any other supplier in the space (i.e. it's a sampling based method). Definitely more robust than Alexa though.

So - it's browsing, rather than publishing behaviour. Not sure that's 100% what you're after, but perhaps a useful data point.

The results varied a lot by country - from about 32% site visits from women in Italy, to a maximum of about 45% women in Germany. The US was in the low 40s, towards the top of the range of 7 countries.

You may find the 'Social Technographics' model from industry analysts Forrester research is a good starting point for further Googling. It splits behaviours on a scale from wholly passive (i.e. reading / browsing, through various levels of active engagement - publishing and so on). I don't know for certain, but it's highly possible that they will have published some numbers for gender split in each stage of the ladder - which may well help support your hypothesis that the internet seems more male, because men are better represented in the visible, publishing part of the ladder.
posted by bifter at 9:42 AM on December 6, 2016

This has to do with vidya games, not the Internet, but it might cast some light onto the "why's": 52% of gamers are women.

A lot of the "surprise" factor in the number had to do with more traditional gamers not seeing "words with friends" or "farmville" as "games." So, part of what you are running into is that the people you are debating with don't see "spaces with female voices" as "the Internet."
posted by sparklemotion at 11:34 AM on December 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

« Older Woody root(?) in Cambodia   |   Dating with herpes - how do I go about this? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.