Europe, U.S. on Different Sides of the Gender Divide

Women Internet users hold the slight edge over men in the U.S., but not so in Europe. As of May 2003, 42 percent of European Internet users – or 35 million people – were women, compared to nearly 5 2 percent in the U.S. Nielsen//NetRatings doesn’t expect European parity to occur until 2010.

Both Nielsen//NetRatings and Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) found the UK and Sweden to be at the forefront of European women’s Internet usage, at roughly 41 and 44 percent, respectively.


Percentage of Women Online,
May 2003
Sweden 46.84%
UK 44.61%
Switzerland 42.68%
Netherlands 42.18%
Spain 40.51%
France 40.35%
Germany 39.91%
Italy 38.02%
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Tom Ewing, Nielsen//NetRatings European market analyst, explains why the gender gap should be closed: “Because there is still the perception of the Internet as a very male-dominated place. That needs to change in order for a greater range of sites to win a large female audience. Changes are taking place but it’s a very slow process in some markets.”

In America, September 2003 demographic figures from Hitwise indicated that women were responsible for the majority of Internet traffic – 51.4 percent vs. 48.6 percent – yet Jupiter Research found that women were the online spending minority. According to Jupiter, men will continually outspend women online, but since there are more female online buyers, they will account for 52 percent of total e-commerce revenue in 2007.


Average Online Retail Spending by Gender
Female Male Total
2002 $477 $510 $492
2003 $515 $551 $532
2004 $559 $597 $576
2005 $606 $648 $626
2006 $658 $707 $681
2007 $718 $767 $741
Source: Jupiter Research

American men and women shop for different types of items online, contributing to the disparity in spending between the sexes. Men are more likely to buy consumer electronics, sporting goods, software, computers and peripherals, cars and accessories, and video games than women. Meanwhile, bed linens and home fashions, personal care items and cosmetics, toys, gift certificates, jewelry and watches, and pet food and supplies account for the majority of female spending.

Nielsen//NetRatings monitored the sexes in August 2003, noting the top online destinations for each. Women visited diaper site, Huggies.com in droves, followed by DrPhil.com, and various cosmetic, clothing, jewelry, and gift sites. Men were drawn to electronics site, Creative.com, merchant CCBill.com, wireless manufacturer, Linksys.com, and various financial sites.

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