While gaming continues to be more and more widely accepted by female audiences (along with males), the online gaming communities have not been welcoming them, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

The report, posted by Polygon, studies how much harassment goes into online experiences, with an estimated 27 percent of all Internet users reporting some form of offensive activity, such as being called a name. This is experienced by both males and females, but the harassment females find in gaming online doesn’t stop there.

The study also shows that one in four young women report some form of sexual harassment, with the same amount also reporting some form of physical threat. Some of it is quite steady as well, with 18 percent reporting sustaining harassment, compared to 7 percent of Internet audiences overall.

The chart below shows how welcome women are in certain online neighborhoods, and, as you can see, online gaming seems to rely more on a general male audience than female, even if the report shows that both are welcome with a higher number. Online dating sites and social networking sites fare differently, requesting more of a female presence than men.

Only three percent of those polled believe that online gaming is a welcome place for women, while 51 percent feel that it’s equally welcome to both genders. That number rises to 75 percent when it comes to social sites, which is surprising to say the least.

“Respondents were asked whether they thought a series of online platforms were more welcoming toward men, more welcoming toward women, or equally welcoming to both sexes,” explained Pew in the report. “While most online environments were viewed as equally welcoming to both genders, the starkest results were for online gaming. Some 44 percent of respondents felt the platform was more welcoming toward men.”

Considering the growing Gamergate controversy on social networks and the lack of security with certain game experiences, one has to wonder when something will change to make women feel more welcome. If games are to continue to grow the audience, online communities for gamers should be inclusive and non-threatening places. Clearly there is a lot of work to do to make that vision a reality.