Her warning came as an Ipsos Mori poll revealed that 59 per cent of Scottish women intend to vote No and 27 per cent to vote Yes, compared with 38 per cent of men in favour of independence and 54 per cent against.
The SNP deputy leader said that winning over female voters is “perhaps one of the biggest challenges” for supporters of leaving the United Kingdom.
Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) that women took a “more pragmatic”
approach to the notion of independence.
She said she was not an “identity-driven Nationalist” and claimed that a voter did not “have to be a Nationalist” to vote Yes in the referendum on 18 September.
She said: “I think for women it is less about the state of the nation and more about the practical implications for their lives, for their future, for the futures of their children and the family environment they live in.
“For me those are the issues that matter in the referendum. I am not one of these identity-driven Nationalists – for me independence is a means to an end. It is about having the power to change the country for the better.”
Ms Sturgeon went on to say that SNP proposals to expand childcare provision – a key plank of the white paper on independence – would win over more women. She said the policy would enable more women to return to work and help Scotland reach levels of female participation in the workforce similar to those in Sweden.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If we can put the focus of this debate on these issues, whether that is childcare or how we encourage entrepreneurialism, not immediately, but over the next five, ten, 50 years, that is where we will start to turn the gender gap, and if we do that we will win the referendum.
“It is perhaps one of the biggest challenges the Yes side faces over the next few months.”
After her speech, Ms Sturgeon went on to say that if the Yes campaign “can win a majority of women, we’ll win the referendum”, adding: “As a Nationalist, I believe that Scotland should be independent because that is the most natural and best state of affairs for all nations.”
She also warned that extended devolution was not the best option for Scotland: “Of course, neither Labour nor the Liberals nor the Tories have yet come up with final proposals. But, certainly in the case of Labour and the Liberals, we have a clear idea of where they will end up.
“I would argue that they both fall short of what Scotland needs on the three grounds I have already mentioned – substance, lack of a common plan and the absence of any guarantee on delivery.”
Under Labour’s proposals, Westminster would continue to control almost three-quarters of Scottish tax revenues, Ms Sturgeon said, and two-thirds of revenue in the case of the Liberal Democrats’ plan.
However, deputy Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Labour’s future devolution plans offered Scotland “the best of both worlds”.
Mr Sarwar said: “We know that whatever we decide it won’t be enough for Nicola Sturgeon. She finds herself in the ridiculous position of saying Labour’s proposals don’t go far enough before she has even seen them.”
Mr Sarwar added: “The Yes campaign don’t just have a women problem, they have a people problem as the polls suggest the majority of Scots see through the empty promises.”