If the Web had a gender, it would be female. There, I’ve said it. Despite all the traditional indicators typically cited – such as the declining number of women signing up for computer science majors at our nation’s universities or the relatively small number of female tech CEOs – the future of the Web is largely being determined by women, and it’s not just a matter of demographics. Yes, women now account for more than 50% of the workforce for the first time ever, but the way we think about and use the Web is also changing.
The Web is less about coding and programming, and more about design and aesthetics. Just a few years ago, go-to destinations on the Internet for Web designers would have included sites like Slashdot; now they also include sites like Swiss Miss and Core 77. As a result, typical surveys that examine the number of people in Internet-related fields are likely under-counting the number of women. When it comes to the Web, roles like “social media strategist” and “community manager” are just as likely to be women as men.
In fact, social networking sites like Facebook are now becoming women-centric. The latest numbers show that 57% of the world’s 400 million Facebook users are women. Not only that, but women account for 62% of all sharing on Facebook and tend to have 8% more friends on Facebook than their male peers. In a word, women are just more social than men. At the same time, studies are showing that young girls are also more ardent and passionate users of the Web for sharing and conversation than young boys. It’s not too far-fetched to extrapolate from this broad-based trend that social networking sites will continue to change and evolve in ways that favor women.
At the same time, women-dominated domains that previously were far beyond the reach of the Internet – such as fashion and art – are now firmly becoming part of the Web’s very fabric. Important contributors, such as Gilt Groupe co-founders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and Rent the Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, have forced traditional fashion brands to re-think the Web. Ahead of events such as New York Fashion Week, there are now countless stories about the number of brands and fashion personalities using Web content creation sites like Tumblr. Within the art world, innovators like Julia Kaganskiy of The Creators Project and Dasha Zhukova of Art.sy are forcing us to re-think the traditional dividing line between Art and the Web.
The Web of the immediate future is one that is increasingly visual, empathetic and design-centric. Video and photography are informing the shape and direction of the Web in ways that will encourage more girls than ever before to consider a career with technology and the Internet. The right-brain world famously described by Dan Pink is fast becoming a reality, and that reality augurs in a very real chance that girls growing up today will turn out to be the Web visionaries of tomorrow.