© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.Economic development may have distinct implications for the environment based on gender-differentiated employment in various sectors of the economy. This is the first major attempt to incorporate gender in environmental modeling using sector-wise female employment status and gender parity index. In this study, we investigate the environment-gender nexus through the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) hypothesis in 36 Asian countries for the period 1991–2017 by panel data estimations. We find in all estimations through panel FMOLS that (a) per capita GDP positively affects CO2 emissions and (b) per capita CO2 is affected by per capita GDP squared negatively, thus confirming EKC for panel Asian data with 971 observations. The estimations of the paper also confirm the EKC hypothesis through panel data models in which GDP and GDP squared variables. Our findings suggest male and female labor market participation impacts the environment differently, particularly in the agricultural sectors. We also find that an increased schooling ratio (gender parity index) negatively impacts environmental degradation. The findings of the present study are expected to give insights into policymakers for understanding the theoretical and statistical association between environmental quality and male/female labor force in agricultural and industrial sectors for 36 Asian countries.