The gender digital divide

This week’s topic is “Gender, globalization, the “digital divide,” and digital inequality.

The term “digital divide” has been used to describe inequalities in access to computers and the Internet between groups of people based on one or more social or cultural identifiers, like race or gender.

In 2001, Gorski noted that the number of women using the Internet surpassed the number of men. But, this should NOT be taken as a sign of the end of the gender digital divide:

…during the same year that women became over 50 percent of the online population, only 7 percent of all Bachelor’s-level engineering degrees were conferred to women and only 20 percent of all information technology professionals were women. So, while equality in access rates reflects an important step forward, it does not, by any useful measurement, signify the end of the sex digital divide. In fact, the glaring inequities that remain despite equality in Internet access illustrate the urgency for a deeper, broader understanding of the digital divide and a deeper, broader approach for eliminating it [2].

In other words, just because more women are using the Internet, doesn’t mean that they’re receiving the same benefits or opportunities that the men are.

In 2007, Liff and Shepherd took up Gorski’s call for a “deeper, broader understanding” in their paper An evolving gender divide?. They argued that:

…while the most obvious divide–the degree to which those using the Internet are demographically unrepresentative–may be closing, other more subtle divides are emerging. These relate to the quality of access, the ability to use the Internet effectively and the way Internet use affects access to goods and services [1].

Based on data collected from the Oxford Internet Survey, Liff and Shepherd concluded that the gender digital divide has evolved and does still exist, just in a different way. They concluded that even though the access to the Internet may be equal, inequalities still exist in the amount and type of use of that access, as well as the confidence level of such a use.

Liff and Shepherd’s findings support Gorski’s claims. It seems that the next step is for more researchers to take up Gorski’s call for a “deeper, broader approach for eliminating” this gender digital divide.

[1] Liff, S., & Shepherd, A. (2004). An evolving gender digital divide? Oxford Internet Institute, Internet Issue Brief, (2), 1-17.

[2] Gorski, P. (2001). Understanding the digital divide from a multicultural education framework. EdChange Multicultural Pavilion: Digital Divide & Edtech.

Cooper, J. (2006). The digital divide: The special case of gender. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22(5), 320-334.

Hargittai, E., & Hinnant, A. (2008). Digital inequality: Differences in young adults’ use of the internet. Communication Research, 35(5), 602-621.

Jackson, L. A., Zhao, Y., Kolenic III, A., Fitzgerald, H. E., Harold, R. & von Eye, A. (2008). Race, gender, and information technology use: The new digital divide. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(4), 437-442.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by digital-ascetic on September 5, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I think the Digital Divide is a serious problem, but we must not forget the other side of the coin: drowning in a flood of information.

    If you are interested in our project:


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