Europe’s female internet population is growing – but will be outnumbered by men on the web for several years yet.

New findings from Nielsen/Netratings show that 42% of European surfers are female, up from 41% a year ago. At this rate of growth, women will not catch up with men until 2010.

Sweden and the UK have the highest concentration of women web users; over 45% of surfers in both countries are female, whereas in Italy the figure is below 40%. In contrast, 51% of American surfers are female.

“Getting more women online matters because there is still the perception of the internet as a very male-dominated place,” commented Nielsen//NetRatings analyst Tom Ewing. “That needs to change in order for a greater range of sites to win a large female audience.”

Shopping, health and beauty, travel, education and finance sites all have high distaff appeal. “What’s interesting,” continued Ewing, “is how well specialised and practical sites do – shopping or local guides, for instance – whereas portals specifically designed for women have a much lower profile.”

In the UK, the web destination with the highest concentration of women visitors is shopping site, where 82.9% of the total audience is female.

Data sourced from: Nielsen/NetRatings; additional content by WARC staff