“What’s most memorable about my family email?
Just daily contacts and sharing cards, stories, etc. We
have exchanged everything from birthday information
to medical situations to pick-me-ups to drab daily things.”
-- A 39-year-old woman describes
the role of email in her life
In the past six months, 9 million women have gone online for the first time. That is nearly 10% of adult women in the United States. Fully a fifth of all the women who have Internet access (21%) have gotten it in the past half year. That compares to the 15% of online men who are newcomers to the Internet. The fastest growing cohort is older women; 28% of female Internet users over age 50 have gained Internet access in the past six months.
The new arrivals have a different profile from longtime Internet users, who more often are well-educated, well-paid men. Some 47% of the women who recently got access to the Internet have no education past high school; 54% of them are between the ages of 30 and 50; 53% of them are mothers of a child under 18; 54% of them have incomes of $50,000 or less.
This newcomer status for a large proportion of women affects their relationship to the Internet. Men still go online more frequently than women do and spend more time doing things on the Internet. And men are still a majority of those online on an average day. Some 63% of men with online access log on to the Web or use email on an average day, while 57% of women with online access go online on an average day. Compared to women, men are more likely to seek news online, to do e-shopping, to seek financial information, to buy and sell stocks and bonds, to participate in online auctions, and to get information about politics and from government agency Web sites. Women are more likely than men, though, to seek health information and play online games. They are also a bit more likely than men to seek religious or spiritual information and hunt for material about new jobs.
The most conspicuous thing about online women is that they become attached to email early in their online life. That affinity has changed the way family members deal with each other and feel about their communications. Fully 65% of women who started online in the past year say they would miss email, compared to 55% of novice men who have the same feeling. Women’s affection for email has also reshaped the contours of families because women are somewhat more likely to use the Internet to rekindle relationships with family members who have been out of contact for a long time.
Why women love email
Women are more likely than men to feel that email has helped their relationships with family members and friends and women are more appreciative of the qualities of email. Fifty-seven percent of women who email family say they find email very useful for communicating with family members, while only 44% of men say that. Similar figures apply to women’s and men’s feelings about the utility of email for dealing with friends. Moreover, 56% of those women who email family say they would miss email a lot if they had to give it up, while only 43% of men say that. Among emailers, the largest group of those who say they would miss email a lot are women over 50, fully 60% of whom subscribe to that idea.
One of the major virtues of email to women is its efficiency. More often than men, women cite the time-saving aspect of sending email. Fully 65% of women who email family members say that because of email they can keep in touch with their family without having to spend as much time talking to them. Some 59% of men say that is true for them. About 27% of such women say the main reason they use email with a key friend is because it’s quicker than other forms of communication, while 22% of men say that. As one 46-year-old said in a message to the project: “I am now able to communicate with people in little odd stretches of time without using up a lot of my day.”
Email serves so many essential purposes for women that they are excited to get it. Over three-quarters of women emailers (78%) say they look forward to checking their email, compared to 62% of men who say that. Similarly, many women who maintain email relationships with relatives say email has bolstered their family ties. Forty-one percent of women who email family say email has improved relations in their families, while 34% of men say that. Some 43% of women who email family report that email has brought them closer to their families, compared to 37% of men who say that. And 27% of women who email family say they have learned more about their families since they began using email, while 23% of men feel that way.
Who women email and what women say in those emails
On a typical day, women are a bit more likely than men to send an email to their elders—that is, parents or grandparents. When it comes to the range of people on a person’s email list, women are more likely than men to include far-flung family members and friends on the list. For instance, 53% of women emailers say have reached out electronically to relatives in their extended families such as aunts, uncles, and cousins, while 43% of men say that. And 73% of women emailers say they have sent email to friends who live far away, compared to the 65% of men who say they have done that.
Women also are more inclined than men to use email for most types of electronic messages. Among those who exchange email with family, women are slightly more likely than men to:
- communicate something they are upset or worried about – 50% of women do this with relatives; only 34% of men do that
- pass along something they have heard about – 86% of women do this with relatives; 82% of men do it
- pass along something about their jobs or something they’ve been involved in – 74% of women do this with relatives; 70% of men do it
- pass along some news about family or friends – 85% of women do this with relatives; 81% of men do.