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Report Says Women Lack Confidence on the Web

Men and women are equally skilled at maneuvering on the Internet, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Northwestern and Princeton Universities. But you’d never know that from the way the two sexes tend to describe their Web-surfing prowess.

The study asked men and women to perform online tasks—like locating tax forms, or finding a Web site that compared the 2000 presidential candidates’ views on abortion. At the same time, it asked participants to assess their own Internet skills. And while women did no worse than men at the Web-surfing exercises, they were much more likely to downplay their online abilities.

Should women worry about their gender’s lack of Web esteem? Sure, says Eszter Hargittai, an assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern who is a co-author of the study. "By underestimating their ability to effectively use the Web, women may be limiting the extent of their online behavior, the ways in which they use the Internet and, ultimately, the career choices they make,” Ms. Hargittai says. —Brock Read

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