Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a highly debilitating disease that represents a substantial and growing health burden in women. There is increasing evidence for gender-related differences in COPD risk, progression and outcomes. However, the disease receives scant attention as a women’s health issue. Thus, a multifaceted approach is required to address COPD in women, including greater awareness, minimisation of risk and further elucidation of the gender-specific factors (biological and cultural) that affect risk, disease progression and treatment success. Here we review current literature on the topic and provide suggestions for achieving better outcomes for the millions of women with COPD worldwide.