Perceived and actual online skills: the role of gender

cat-gender-2By Ramona Stamatin

After reading “Differences in Actual and Perceived Online Skills: The Role of Gender” (Hargittai & Shafer, 2006), I have become more informed about a topic we discussed in our Wikid GRRLs project.

During a discussion on how gender intersects with the internet, a team member mentioned that women tend to have a worse perception about their computer skills than what they are actually capable of. The article above explores an experiment in which people are asked questions orally and then observed as they are to find specific information on the internet.

People were given a list of specific sites and information to find on the internet. They were given unlimited time to find this information and were encouraged to not give up on a specific task if they became frustrated.

It was found that cultural beliefs affect men and women’s career choices as well as other aspects of their life such as their perception and interest in their internet skills. Also, men tend to enjoy and show more interest in working on the internet than women. Women tend to spend less time on the internet overall compared to men because they have a lower self-perception of their abilities to work on the internet. However, when women do spend time on the internet, they tend to spend their time on the interpersonal communication systems instead of other tasks.

For the study that I mentioned above, the subjects were selected randomly from Mercer County, New Jersey. The people selected for this study varied in terms of occupation and the gender distribution was almost completely equal (51:49). However, citizens of this county tended to be more educated and make a higher income than the average American. It is important to keep this in mind when applying these results nationally.

Ramona Stamatin is a Wayne State University honors student majoring in biochemistry, Spanish and theatre. In the Wikid GRRLS project she teaches middle school girls online skills in Detroit Public Schools this semester.


Hargittai, E., & Shafer,  (2006). Differences in Actual and Perceived Online Skills: The Role of Gender. Social Science Quarterly, (87)2, 432-449. Abstract:

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