Young Women are the Web Content Creators of Tomorrow

ComputerI always hear about how many men are on-line compared to women and about the dearth of good females in I.T. So it was with relief that I read the New York Times article that described an area of the web where young girls are outpacing boys…on blogging and creating profiles on social networking sites. Not surprising really, as women embrace social contact and enjoy the way the web can creatively connect people.

The study published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that among Web users ages 12 to 17, significantly more girls than boys blog (35 percent of girls compared with 20 percent of boys) and create or work on their own Web pages (32 percent of girls compared with 22 percent of boys).Girls also eclipse boys when it comes to building or working on Web sites for other people and creating profiles on social networking sites (70 percent of girls 15 to 17 have one, versus 57 percent of boys 15 to 17). Video posting was the sole area in which boys outdid girls: boys are almost twice as likely as girls to post video files. If you want to read the whole article, look below….

THE prototypical computer whiz of popular imagination — pasty, geeky, male — has failed to live up to his reputation.

by Natasha Calzatti for The New York Times

Research shows that among the youngest Internet users, the primary creators of Web content (blogs, graphics, photographs, Web sites) are not misfits resembling the Lone Gunmen of “The X Files.” On the contrary, the cyberpioneers of the moment are digitally effusive teenage girls.

“Most guys don’t have patience for this kind of thing,” said Nicole Dominguez, 13, of Miramar, Fla., whose hobbies include designing free icons, layouts and “glitters” (shimmering animations) for the Web and MySpace pages of other teenagers. “It’s really hard.”

Nicole posts her graphics, as well as her own HTML and CSS computer coding pointers (she is self-taught), on the pink and violet Sodevious.net, a domain her mother bought for her in October.

“If you did a poll I think you’d find that boys rarely have sites,” she said. “It’s mostly girls.”

Indeed, a study published in December by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that among Web users ages 12 to 17, significantly more girls than boys blog (35 percent of girls compared with 20 percent of boys) and create or work on their own Web pages (32 percent of girls compared with 22 percent of boys).

Girls also eclipse boys when it comes to building or working on Web sites for other people and creating profiles on social networking sites (70 percent of girls 15 to 17 have one, versus 57 percent of boys 15 to 17). Video posting was the sole area in which boys outdid girls: boys are almost twice as likely as girls to post video files.

Explanations for the gender imbalance are nearly as wide-ranging as cybergirls themselves. The girls include bloggers who pontificate on timeless teenage matters such as “evil teachers” and being “grounded for life,” to would-be Martha Stewarts — entrepreneurs whose online pursuits generate more money than a summer’s worth of baby-sitting.

“I was the first teenage podcaster to receive a major sponsorship,” said Martina Butler, 17, of San Francisco, who for three years has been recording an indie music show, Emo Girl Talk, from her basement. Her first corporate sponsorship, from Nature’s Cure, an acne medication, was reported in 2005 in Brandweek, the marketing trade magazine.

Since then, more than half a dozen companies, including Go Daddy, the Internet domain and hosting provider, have paid to be mentioned in her podcasts, which are posted every Sunday on Emogirltalk.com.

“It’s really only getting bigger for me,” said Martina, an aspiring television and radio host who was tickled to learn about the Pew study.

“I’m not surprised because girls are very creative,” she said, “sometimes more creative than men. We’re spunky. And boys … ” Her voice trailed off to laughter.

The “girls rule” trend in content creation has been percolating for a few years — a Pew study published in 2005 also found that teenage girls were the primary content creators — but the gender gap for blogging, in particular, has widened.

As teenage bloggers nearly doubled from 2004 to 2006, almost all the growth was because of “the increased activity of girls,” the Pew report said.

The findings have implications beyond blogging, according to Pew, because bloggers are “much more likely to engage in other content-creating activities than nonblogging teens.”

But even though girls surpass boys as Web content creators, the imbalance among adults in the computer industry remains. Women hold about 27 percent of jobs in computer and mathematical occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In American high schools, girls comprised fewer than 15 percent of students who took the AP computer science exam in 2006, and there was a 70 percent decline in the number of incoming undergraduate women choosing to major in computer science from 2000 to 2005, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

Scholars who study computer science say there are several reasons for the dearth of women: introductory courses are often uninspiring; it is difficult to shake existing stereotypes about men excelling in the sciences; and there are few female role models. It is possible that the girls who produce glitters today will develop an interest in the rigorous science behind computing, but some scholars are reluctant to draw that conclusion.

“We can hope that this translates, but so far the gap has remained,” said Jane Margolis, an author of “Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing” (MIT Press, 2002). While pleased that girls are mastering programs like Paint Shop Pro, Ms. Margolis emphasized the profound distinction between using existing software and a desire to invent new technology.

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