Payments for ecosystem services (PES) schemes have been increasingly implemented in developing countries where gender-related inequalities are generally prevalent. A randomized field trial in Kenya revealed the impacts of participants’ gender in conservation auctions and in environmental performance of action- and outcome-based PES schemes and provided evidence for associations between the gender effects and traditional gender roles. First, we identified differences between men and women in the utilities of the contract and relative risk aversion as potential drivers of the decrease in bids by women compared to men in the auction for action-based contracts. Second, we observed a gender-specific difference in perceptions of risk in the outcome-based approach when women increased their bids. Third, women achieved lower tree survival than men, despite women providing more effort. In this context, we identified the inequality in reciprocal labor for male and female contract holders as a possible source of the gendered tree survival. This case study showed that targeting women improves gender equity in terms of access to project decision-making, trainings and cash, and can significantly improve the effectiveness of the PES scheme.