This paper demonstrates how institutions for natural resource management (such as community forestry groups), which appear to be participative, equitable and efficient, can be found lacking on all three counts from a gender perspective. It also examines possible gender differences in social networks, values and motivations. Although there is little to suggest that women are inherently more conservationist than men, the distinctness of women's social networks embodying prior experience of successful cooperation, their higher dependence on these networks (as also on the commons in general), and their potentially greater group homogeneity relative to men, could provide an important (and largely ignored) basis for organising sustainable environmental collective action. The paper also outlines the factors that can constrain or facilitate women's participation in formal environmental management groups. Illustrative examples are drawn from rural South Asia.