How Far Have Women Come Online?

Three years and almost 100 columns later, Wired Women has accomplished its mission: It has chronicled the extraordinary events and profiled the fascinating women who have helped to create our digital culture.

It has responded to the kudos and criticisms of thousands of readers, and it has reflected both the wisdom and the humor of its hundreds of valued sources.

Yes, it's still a work in progress. But it's a good time for a break: Like the Internet system that delivers it, Wired Women has come of age. And the women it covers have made real strides since the days when jiggly supermodels in frozen-frame video were the most feminist feature on the Internet.

Today, women rule the Web.

Moms Online

More of us spend more time online than any other demographic — including our adolescent children. A study last week by Digital Marketing Services, a subsidiary of America Online, reported that American moms spend about 4.5 hours more per week online than their teenage kids do — an astonishing average of about 17 hours per mom per week.

We could be using that time to complete an advanced degree, to master conversational French, to track down and compile a collection of gourmet recipes to please our families and dazzle our dinner guests.

Yeah, right.

In fact, a new study by Jupiter Media Metrix says at least a third of us are playing video games and another third are downloading music files ("Don't bother Mommy now, dear, she's working…."). We're logging on in search of diet tips, health advice, and travel deals. We're searching for love, for answers, and most of all, for bargains — on goods and services we didn't know we needed.

We're Web women, circa 2002, and we're proud of it.

Struggles Persist

But this column was never just about the Internet. It was about women in technology — in the boardroom, in the classroom, and in the culture.

And while women may be taking over the Web, they're still struggling to make their mark in the industry. In a study by DeLoitte & Touche last year, 60 percent of women in the high-tech industry said they'd choose another career if they had it to do over. Two-thirds said the glass ceiling still limits their access to the upper echelons of the high-tech industry.

Two-thirds of male respondents said there is no glass ceiling.

Women in the industry said they're seen as less knowledgeable or qualified than their male colleagues. They attributed women's success to skill, education and access to female mentors.

The guys said it was because the economy had been doing well.

Whatever the reason for women's successes — or failures — the gap between men and women in the boardroom remains undeniably wide. Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina remains the exception that proves the rule about women's place in the high-tech industry. Women occupy 4 percent of the highest-paid positions in Fortune 500 companies. And the proportion of advanced degrees in engineering and technology going to women remains a dismal 18 percent.

There's much to be done, and much news to be covered before women begin to claim their rightful place in the high-tech industry. And Wired Women will undoubtedly be back at some point in the future to have a say in how that coverage goes.

In the meantime, Wired Women closes out by acknowledging — and thanking — the thousands of Web women who are creating communities, challenging the status quo, and making the wired world a better place to live.

One click at a time.

A teacher and a journalist, Dianne Lynch is the author of Virtual Ethics. This will be the last WiredWomen column until further notice.