Girl power on the Web, andin the boardroom

The world is at your feet if onlyyou can master that new JavaScript
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The Independent Online

SO IT'S official, the Web has gone female and from now onwill be known as la Web. WMX Media has just published research that foundmore girls online than boys in the 13 to 17 age bracket. Not only are theremore e-mail accounts in girls' names, they also spend more timeonline per session, and use online shopping for buying fashion and gifts forfriends.

SO IT'S official, the Web has gone female and from now onwill be known as la Web. WMX Media has just published research that foundmore girls online than boys in the 13 to 17 age bracket. Not only are theremore e-mail accounts in girls' names, they also spend more timeonline per session, and use online shopping for buying fashion and gifts forfriends.

They tend to rely on Web-based e-mail rather than fulldial-ups and use pseudonyms on their e-mail addresses. Girls tend tocorrespond with friends and people they know, and are not likely to reply toe-mails from strangers. They consider the Net as an extension of thetelephone and not a way of finding new playmates.

Familiarity breedsconfidence, and if the girls are using e-mail, it's likely togive them a lot more confidence to explore their computers beyond simplecommunication functions. We have started seeing the result of that newlyfound girl techno-power in the numbers of websites implemented by them.The girls are attacking en force and the recent Yell awards showed a number ofsuccessful Net companies are created, run and developed by women.

Oneof the most inspiring examples of women with zest and technical bent ischickclick.com, which provides an opportunity for women to tell theirstory and expose their online business to many customers and visitors who comevia the "chickclick" co-operative network of sites.

Some ofthe online services are simply fun, such as breakupgirl.com, whichprovides great gossip on LA-based celebrities. Other sites on"chickclick" are more focused on career, parenting and home help.The sites are done extremely well, graphical and copy standards are oftenbetter than those on the rushed and unloved commercial sites, and the femaleWeb artisans do craft their stories a lot deeper than the completely commercialand deadly boring women.com.

I asked some of the women who run the"chickflick" sites what drives them. The answers varied from the Netbelievers saying: "I just love the Internet", to: "I hatetechnology but talking to people is great, so if HTML is the way to doit, so be it."

The name often mentioned as the source ofinspiration was Shannon Lucid, something of a mentor for women intechnology, the astronaut who holds the women's world record for thenumber of hours in orbit. Shannon has her own page on the Women of Nasasite, and she promotes technology by speaking at college campuses and onTV. Shannon and Karen Lynd, head of Nasa's High Speed PropulsionProject, have probably done more to get women into computers and technologythan any of their contemporaries.

They obviously enjoy what they do andhave carved out careers in space that were, until recently, strictly offlimits. Reading Shannon's story in Scientific American on her experienceson the Mir space station shows how differentgenders cope under extreme conditions.

Unfortunately, the overallpicture of women in IT is less rosy. New employment data from recruitmentagencies shows a declining number of women entering IT careers. That figurehas been in a worrying trend for some time. The progress made in the ITindustry in the early Eighties has been lost as IT has become a man-only zoneagain. However, women who endured the sexism, long hours and insanelyfast-moving skill set have done extremely well.

Only last week thepeak of the mountain was reached by a person we all have a lot to thank for,Carly Fiorina, who has taken the reigns at HP as the new CEO. I'vemet her several times in Palo Alto, where she has given speeches on behalf ofLucent Technologies, the company she joined after 17 years with AT&T.At Lucent, she lead the transformation of its Global Service ProviderBusiness, now with annual revenues of $20bn.

Carly has taken adifferent route to the top, teaching primary school, then studyingmedieval history and eventually majoring in philosophy, only to drop out oflaw school to join AT&T.

I was impressed with her stamina and abilityto function on many levels, as a mentor, business head and a nourishingforce on other boards. Carly sits on the boards of Kelloggs as well aspharmaceutical giant Merck.

Her success shouldn't beunderestimated, because the glass ceiling in the IT and digital mediaindustries is still very much in existence. I would bet my baseball cap itwill be another 10 years before there is a female CEO in a British IT giant suchas ICL.

Girls, keep working on that website and think about Carly Theworld is at your feet if only you can master that newJavaScript.

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