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Women Have Arrived!

SILICON VALLEY - Not every Web site that targets females can claim such a select group of patrons as the mutual fund company named Strong Funds can. When it began advertising online, it bypassed the traditional Internet Web search engines and zeroed in on Women's Wire.

The five-year-old Web site caters to women, offering news on health and entertainment as well as advice on financial planning. 'We're finding more and more that the investment decisions are made by women' said Jon Pauley, manager of electronic distribution for Strong Funds a division of privately owned Strong Capital Management in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 'It's definitely worth our while to look into.'

There's no doubt that the sheer number of women going online is skyrocketing. Take a look at this writer's own slick online monthly Mother Wire Magazine for a perfect example of how younger women with families are taking the Internet Web by storm.

Michael Bloomberg reports that women now make up 35 percent of people who peruse the Internet Web, up from just 15 percent in 1994. By the year 2000, women are expected to comprise half the online community, said Kate Delhagen, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., a market researcher. 'More women have arrived,' she said.

That's led to a mini boom in online ads and services designed for them. Companies from Sony Corp. to Intuit Inc. are rushing to advertise on female-oriented Web sites or set up information geared to women on their own Internet Web Sites.

'It's a way to broaden our reach and appeal' said Steven Yee, vice president of marketing at Sony. Sony advertises on Cybergrrl a site reaching mostly 18- to 35-year-old women, an audience that spends a lot of money on entertainment, he said. Cybergrrl is linked to Sony's own Web page, which offers soap opera updates, online shopping, games like Jeopardy, a music channel, and a spot for kids.

While a few years ago Web sites mainly targeted men through computer games, sports and business news, companies today are aiming for women with advice on how to choose a home-repair contractor, pick a financial adviser, and manage time better. 'A lot of companies didn't recognize the power of the women's market,' said Susan DiFife, president of Women's Connection Online, a Virginia company with a Web site for women.

Some 7.7 million U.S. women are in business, comprising more than a third of all small-business owners. And women make up more than 45 percent of the U.S. workforce, DiFife said.


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