Girls Welcome

By Sean Carroll | February 21, 2008 5:07 pm

Another strike against the tendency to see cultural predilections of the moment as direct reflections of underlying genetically-determined features of human nature. For years, everything related to computers has been a predominantly male domain. But the New York Times reports on a dramatic shift: these days, young girls are much more likely to be creating original Web content than young boys.

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.

The explanation offered for boys’ dominance in the video-posting category was that this was the best way to brag about one’s skateboarding prowess, although evidence for that hypothesis seems to be largely anecdotal.

Note that this phenomenon should not be taken as evidence that women are genetically predisposed to make Web pages (or to blog) — although, as you might expect, there is no shortage of just-so explanations bandied about. But it’s great that the internet has lowered the considerable barrier to young girls becoming interested in computers, and we can hope that some of them get inspired to continue onto technical careers.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humanity, Women in Science

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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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