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Morahan-Martin, Janet, 1998

Women and Girls Last: Females and the Internet


The Internet has been dominated by males since its inception. Although use of the Internet by females has increased dramatically in the last few years, women and girls worldwide still use the Internet less and in different ways than males. Low Internet use by females not only gives them less access to information and services available online, but also can have negative economic and educational consequences. This paper discusses barriers to greater female use of the Internet: the Internet as new technology, the masculine Internet culture, and gendered communication styles online. Historically, females have been less likely to embrace new technology than females. Negative attitudes towards new technology underlie females reporting less computer experience as well as less computer competence and less favorable attitudes towards computers than males. Negative attitudes towards computers may be transferred to Internet use and attitudes. The Internet culture was developed by its earliest users, primarily male scientists, mathematicians, and technologically sophisticated computer hackers. This culture can be discomforting and alien to females. For example, netiquette norms tolerate uncensored hostility and even harassment which women may find offensive. Gendered communication differences also affect Internet interactions and lead to male domination found in Internet discussion groups. Research generally has shown that males' online communication is status enhancing and adversarial while females' online communication is supportive and tentative. Further, males dominate mixed-gender online discussion groups, and, when females approach domination, they are ignored, trivialized or criticized by males. These communication styles may deter greater female participation online.

Paper from The IRISS 98 >/a> conference took place during 25-27 March 1998 in Bristol