A study from Neilsen/Netratings has found that women won't catch up with men in terms of web use before 2010. Its figures show that currently only 42 percent of European surfers (35 million people) are women, up just one percent from last year's findings. The research firm calculates that if growth continues at this rate the number of girls online won't match the boys for another seven years.

But the problem of getting women interested in the internet seems to be particular to Europe, as in America females make up 51 percent of web users. Neilsen/Netratings analyst Tom Ewing believes the problem is the paucity of websites targeting women. "There is still the perception of the internet as a very male-dominated place. That needs to change in order for a greater range of sites to win a large female audience."

UK women aren't as far behind as some of their European counterparts, however. Along with the Swedes we top the charts for web use, with over 45 percent of women surfing the internet. It is in countries like Italy, where well under 40 percent of web users are women, and Spain and Germany where they only just pass the 40 percent mark, that the problem is worst.

Women's practical nature shines through when it comes to the sites that attract female surfers most. Female-centric portals fail to attract many visitors, but sites like shopping or local guides do well. The top site for attracting women in the UK is Next.co.uk, with sites from retailers like Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Tesco doing well too.