Research into the phenomenon of adaptation has surged in recent years as people across the globe face evolving climate situations. The role of women in this adaptation research, and in policy discussions, is often unclear or entirely unaddressed. An array of literature exists on the inclusion of women into environmental management and sustainable development, yet there is a lack of systematic scientific inquiry into how women’s participation in adaptation strategies relating to water issues is discussed and conceptualized across the academic community. Additionally, little research has been done on how practitioners active in the field of climate adaptation understand the role of women. This study sought to understand both how women’s roles in adaptation are conceptualized in academic literature and how these roles are perceived by practitioners. The two-part study systematically examined a corpus of academic literature using a discourse analysis framework and applied this same framework to a series of interviews with adaptation practitioners. It was found that the discourse of women’s “vulnerability” remained pervasive in academic literature but not in practitioner discourse. The idea of gendered roles and responsibilities underscored both academic works and interviews, and the addition of discourses surrounding power relations and active adaptation practices indicated that dominant narratives may be shifting. Practitioner discourses diverged from academics’ by repeatedly underscoring the centrality of women to climate adaptation processes, particularly in the water sector. These findings provide nuance to the discussion of women in climate change adaptation and highlight the need for both academic and practitioner communities to be active in the creation of adaptation policy.