Crossroads The ACM Magazine for Students

Sign In

Association for Computing Machinery

Magazine: Pointers
A world wide web for women

A world wide web for women

By ,

Full text also available in the ACM Digital Library as PDF | HTML | Digital Edition

Tags: General conference proceedings, General literature, Reference works, Women, World Wide Web

back to top 

The internet is no longer just a place to search for stuff and communicate. It has evolved to be one of the most important necessities for human connection. The benefits and potential of the internet are endless, and it has become a basic requirement in almost everyone's toolbox. But do we want such a powerful tool to exclude some fractions of society? Is it morally correct to let the internet be dominated by specific groups?

Equality on the internet is a widespread issue, especially concerning gender. In some parts of the world, as distressing as it may be, the internet is not as easily accessible to women as it is to men. Various social and economic factors lead to curbing the freedom of women on the web. Clear and effective steps are needed to bridge this gender gap on the digital level. Like all the myriad problems plaguing the web, the most important step is to identify and acknowledge that it does exist in the first place. Fortunately, there are numerous researchers studying and writing about gender bias, and sharing their work beyond the walls of computer science.

Along with the issues of accessibility and freedom on the web for women, there are other concerns like cyberbullying, online harassment, and breach of privacy that discourage women from freely accessing and enjoying the benefits of the internet. It is a social responsibility of not only the people working in tech, but also every other person using the internet, to ensure digital safety for everyone and, hence, enable fair use of this incredible tool to everyone regardless of their wealth, race, class, or gender.

Tejas Morkar

back to top  Research Papers

"Public WiFi is for Men and Mobile Internet is for Women: Interrogating politics of space and gender around WiFi hotspots"

By Preeti Mudliar

Public Wi-Fi networks are considered to be a good solution for increasing internet access to remote areas, where broadband connectivity is more difficult due to various parameters involved. This paper questions the inclusiveness of public Wi-Fi networks with respect to gender, and shows how women are not able to freely connect to the internet through these networks in areas with social norms that restrict their movement in society. The study in this paper is based on the field setting of a rural area in Arain, Rajasthan, India. The data was collected in the form of formal interviews, intercepts, and informal interactions with the participants. The findings show a distinct difference between the accessibility and mobility patterns of men and women in the area. If public Wi-Fi spaces are thought to be a good solution for better internet access, all measures should taken to make them inclusive for everyone regardless of gender and other social variables.


"Gender Gap in the Digital Society: A qualitative analysis of the international conversation in the WYRED project"

By Nadia Sánchez Santos, Alicia García-Holgado, and M. Cruz Sánchez-Gómez

According to the WYRED project, society is changing and young people are at the forefront of this change; this project aims to provide a voice for the young. An international conversation was carried out on the WYRED platform between February and March 2019 to highlight stereotypes and equality on the internet. This paper provides a qualitative analysis of the content of the conversations and sheds light on the concerns of young people regarding digital society. The research shows one of the most pressing issues is related to gender in the digital society, and that education plays a vital role in reshaping the mentality around gender stereotypes. One of the examples mentioned states that opting for coeducation to avoid gender discrimination in classrooms could be a solution.


back to top  Recommended Articles

"Bridging the Gender Digital Gap"

By Judith Mariscal, Gloria Mayne, Urvashi Aneja, and Alina Sorgner

The gender digital gap is not an unknown problem and various steps are being taken to bridge this gap, but still, there is visible pervasive gender inequality in terms of access, ownership of digital devices, and digital fluency. This research article emphasizes that increasing accessibility is not enough. Proper indicators and assessments are needed to implement effective policies to drive inclusion. Better promotion of women's digital adoption is required not only from the government but also from the private sector.


"Women in Leadership: Value of women's contributions in science, engineering, and technology"

By Monique Frize

Leadership roles at various stages of careers can mean different things, like a student being at the top of their graduating class, being elected for leadership positions in student societies, or being selected for an executive position at a startup. According to Frize, gender imbalance in such places can severely limit the participation of women in science and engineering leadership roles, and one of the main obstacles for women to obtain these roles lies in the vision that women are inferior to men. The author also propose strategies to change this misconception and increase the participation of women in these disciplines.


"Women's Rights Online: Closing the digital gender gap for a more equal world"

By World Wide Web Foundation

The internet can help break social barriers around wealth, race, class, and gender but there is still a persistent problem with gender equality on the internet. The World Wide Web Foundation has published a global report highlighting these inequalities. Some of the key findings from the report are: promising results on basic internet access; evidence of a hidden digital gender divide; skills as a barrier to access; women creating less online content; greater concern for privacy; and less trust in online companies.

The article also states some basic steps that governments and companies should follow to create a truly gender-inclusive digital world, such as collecting and publishing gender data, adopting meaningful connectivity, promoting digital skills, supporting women's participation, and safeguarding the online privacy of women and girls.


"What It's Like to Be A Woman On the Internet"

By Chloe Condon

This personal story of being a woman in technical fields and being a woman on the internet, mostly through social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, gives some insight into the negative experiences women have had when engaging with technology. Women are more likely to face cyberbullying and online harassment in the forms of comments, direct messages, and much more. It takes a lot of effort for them to call these things out and take action against the perpetrators. For anyone who is witnessing such behavior, it'll not do any good to just get angry, instead call out such things if you see it happening. This is a great read to understand and acknowledge such type of unscrupulous behavior that persists on the internet.


back to top  Journals and Workshops

Gender, Technology and Development

This international, refereed journal explores the links between gender relations, development, and/or technological change. It serves as a platform for original research and theorizing on the shifting meanings of gender, as it relates to advances in science and technology within social, political, economic, and cultural contexts, specifically attempting to address questions in the context of transnational phenomena and engaging in conversations across geographical boundaries.


Gender & Society

The official journal of the Sociologists for Women in Society focuses on sociology and women's studies. Articles examine gender and gendered processes in interactions, organizations, societies, and global and transnational spaces. The journal publishes research articles as well book reviews. Gender & Society is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).


Celebrating Technology Leaders

This webinar series by ACM-W's global leadership highlights the stories of successful women in tech who are leading diverse careers. During these conversations, women are provided career coaching and leadership advice, specifically students and early career professionals. ACM-W aims to highlight the multitude of careers open to women, enabling them to take the next steps in their professional journeys.


back to top  Useful Websites


ACM-W supports, celebrates, and advocates internationally for the full engagement of women in all aspects of the computing field, providing a wide range of programs and services to ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) members and working in the larger community to advance the contributions of women in tech.


EQUALS Global Partnership

Corporate leaders, governments, businesses, not-for-profit organizations, academic institutions, NGOs, and community groups around the world form the EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age. EQUALS is dedicated to promoting gender balance in the technology sector by championing equal access, skills development, and career opportunities.

The group promotes awareness, builds political commitment, leverages resources and knowledge, harnesses the capacities of partners, and supports real action to achieve digital gender equality.


Women in Data Science (WiDS) Initiative

WiDS aims to inspire and educate data scientists across the globe, and, more importantly, support women in the field. WiDS began as a one-day technical conference at Stanford University in 2015. More than five years later, it is a global movement supporting conferences, datathons, podcasts, and education outreach.


back to top  Books

Cracking the Digital Ceiling: Women in Computing Around the World

By Carol Frieze and Jeria L. Quesenberry
(Cambridge University Press, 2019)

Publisher's description:

"Is computing just for men? Are men and women suited to different careers? This collection of global perspectives challenges these commonly held western views, perpetuated as explanations for women's low participation in computing. By providing an insider look at how different cultures worldwide impact the experiences of women in computing, the book introduces readers to theories and evidence that support the need to turn to environmental factors, rather than innate potential, to understand what determines women's participation in this growing field. This wake-up call to examine the obstacles and catalysts within various cultures and environments will help those interested in improving the situation understand where they might look to make changes that could impact women's participation in their classrooms, companies, and administrations. Computer scientists, STEM educators, students of all disciplines, professionals in the tech industry, leaders in gender equity, anthropologists, and policymakers will all benefit from reading this book."


Women in Tech Take Your Career to the Next Level with Practical Advice and Inspiring Stories

By Tarah Wheeler
(Sasquatch Books, 2016)

Women In Tech is a 2016 professional career guide providing advice for women in tech spaces. Wheeler details how to develop career skills, such as salary negotiation, networking, and finding work-life balance. She also shares personal stories from Brianna Wu, Angie Chang, Keren Elazari, Katie Cunningham, Miah Johnson, and other female tech professionals.


back to top 

© 2021 Copyright held by the Owner(s)/Author(s). 1528-4972/21/03

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2021 ACM, Inc.


There are no comments at this time.


To comment you must create or log in with your ACM account.