The sustainable use of natural resources depends on formal and informal institutions, where gender composition might play a role. Several studies have shown the effects of having men and women working together in environmental protection and conservation management. Nevertheless, there is little evidence regarding the impact of groups’ gender composition. This study aims to identify whether the extraction of a common-pool resource at the group and individual levels is different for women and men in the context of collective action in groups with different gender compositions. To do so, we ran experimental economic games with local fishing communities in the Colombian Pacific in the context of a conservation agreement. We used nested experimental games (combining extraction and public-good games) to compare extraction decisions in groups of four people with different gender combinations according to the number of women in each. The experimental setting allowed us to identify the gender composition effect in groups subject to collective action, finding that before collective action, women-majority groups extracted more, whereas, after building collective action, extraction was the lowest for women-majority groups. At the individual level, women extracted more during the baseline. However, after collective action treatment, all women reduced their extraction levels, and men belonging to mixed groups exhibited the highest extraction reductions, achieving the same level as their female partners. The results suggest that integrating women into environmental-management groups is positive for the conservation of natural resources. In practice, women’s contribution would be useful only if they can participate actively in decision-making processes. This condition becomes relevant for strategies aimed at local development and environmental sustainability.
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