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Women creating punch cards
Long before the Internet existed, computers were women. (United States Census Bureau, courtesy of the University of Hartford)

It's a well-known trope that there are no girls on the Internet. In fact, apparently that is a "rule of the Internet".

  1. There are no girls on the internet.

At any rate, I know a few women who do, in fact, use the Internet, so that I can at least anecdotally refute that statement. Furthermore, it seems highly unlikely that 51% of the world population has been excluded from one of mankind's greatest achievements.

Yet, it stands to reason that such a widely espoused viewpoint might have some basis in reality.

Is there any evidence that more men than women use the Internet?

  • I found a 2013 report from the UN claiming the answer is yes ... networkworld.com/article/2170200/lan-wan/… – GEdgar Aug 26 '18 at 22:46
  • 1
    @Gedgar: Why not post that as an answer? – Oddthinking Aug 26 '18 at 23:15
  • Note that there is a brief article in the Sept 2018 issue of Scientific American (pg 22) which touches on this topic, with a modicum of hard data. (Facebook users in the US are predominantly female.) – Daniel R Hicks Aug 27 '18 at 21:19
  • (Besides, on the Internet nobody knows you are a bitch.) – Daniel R Hicks Aug 27 '18 at 21:20
  • I think whatever 'basis in reality' that viewpoint has is tied to what part of the internet you are talking about. My impression is that the genders tend to highly self-segregate into different regions of the web; there are some areas where encountering a female is... a bit out of the norm. And those are the areas where that meme tends to gain traction. – kbelder Aug 27 '18 at 23:19
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A report called
Doubling Digital Opportunities:
Enhancing the Inclusion of Women & Girls in the Information Society

was issued in September, 2013, by the United Nations' Broadband Commission Working Group,
a commission formed jointly by ITU and UNESCO.

TL;DR It claims that internet access was unequal at that time.

ITU = International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
UNESCO = United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

A news report about it at Network World: Massive Internet Gender Gap

The full report in PDF

From page 6 of the report:

More than twenty years after the birth of the Internet, two-thirds of the planet’s population still do not have regular access to the Internet, and a greater proportion of these unconnected global citizens are women. ITU (2013) estimates that some 200 million fewer women are online, compared with men. Women are coming online later and, as a gender, more slowly, than men.

From the Network World news article:

Citing statistics from the ITU World Telecommunications/ICT Indicators database, the report says 41% of men worldwide are connected to the Internet, compared to 37% of women. In what is defined as the “developed world,” or countries with wide-reaching access to the Internet, 80% of men are online, compared 74% of women. In the “developing world,” those figures drop to 33% of all men and just 29% of women.

In the developing world, the report claims that 16% fewer women use the Internet than men, whereas just 2% fewer women are online in the developed world.

The gender gap in Internet services is particularly noticeable in major Arab countries, according to the report. Statistics from the Arab Advisors Group showed that higher percentages of men in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan use ecommerce services than women. In Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, no fewer than 62% of men use smartphones. Among those same countries, Morocco’s 38% of females using smartphones is the highest rate, according to the report.

The report is dated 2013. Have things changed since then? The report notes:

the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Digital Development endorsed a fifth broadband advocacy target, calling for gender equality in access to broadband by 2020.

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TLDR - Not much solid data aside from UK where numbers are stated as almost equal.


I know Facebook is not the internet, but it has a huge slice of the traffic.

These statistics from early 2009 suggest there are more female users than males using* Facebook than males. Although the data is not entirely clear it is at least based on actual Facebook data according to the article.

On average, the ratio of male to female Facebook users is .85, meaning that there are significantly more Female facebook users than male ones. This plays out with general trends in social networking gender demographics, which tend to show a predominantly female base of users.

*Unfortunately this does not state clearly what they mean by usage

There are many sites out there that claim to represent a bias towards females and many sensationalist articles.

Most of these are based on "various sources".

One such example is this one from Cory Doctrow in 2007: enter image description here

This has its source as eMarketer who according to themselves is based on "Data from over 4,000 Worldwide Sources". Which in itself is not a reasonable source for this site.

It seems this question came up around 2007 and there was some interest in it, but as most of it was tripe and unprovable people stopped paying attention.

One reliable source would be a national census. I am a non-American, so can't say for the USA and unfortunately for Australia the last available data is from 2000 which is now over 10 years old. A further search revealed little information from American census data that was recent.

Accoding to this report Office for National Statistics - Internet Access Quarterly Update, May 2011 from the UK Office for National statistics is says:

The numbers of male and female Internet users were similar, at 20.51 million and 20.27 million respectively. Men were more likely to have used the Internet than women, with 84.6 per cent of men having used it compared with 79.8 per cent of women. There were 1.45 million more women than men who had never used the Internet; 5.08 million women compared with 3.63 million men.

Information about how this data is collected can be read in the linked document.

5

The percent of (adult) men and women who use the internet is about the same in America.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, since the year 2000, the biggest gap was 66% men used the internet vs. 61% women in 2004. For several years the percents were equal (84%, 2013; 84%, 2014; 86%, 2015).

Right now, in 2018, 89% of men and 88% of women use the internet.

Here's a graph of that data:

% of U.S. adults who use the internet, by gender (graph)
ibid

  • Nice. It's a shame that the detailed data behind the stats in those graphs doesn't appear to be available - I suspect that the small gender difference since maybe 2005 would probably disappear if you take age into account (women tend to live slightly longer than men in most western countries, partly due to healthier living like less smoking and drinking, so the 'all women' group will usually have a slightly older age profile than the 'all men' group) – user568458 Aug 27 '18 at 8:05

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