It really would depend on the lady. For me there is no way I would carry my gun in a purse. It's all about easy and fast access and in a state of emergency and/or attack time would need to be on your side. Speaking personally, I do not see myself ever being able to access and draw a gun to thwart an attack if I had to dig it out of a person, even one of those 'gun purses'. My gun needs to be on my person. My humble opinion, of course.
Good points, MB, but there is also the security aspect to consider. If a purse snatcher goes for the purse, they'll be going for you gun as well, whether they know it or not.
I've seen many women at the office or someplace similar set their purse down somewhere and then leave it there as they go about their business, leaving their gun someplace else if it's needed. Also, unless that location is absolutely secure, someone can dip into the purse looking for cash, meds, or credit cards, and get a free gun.
Then there is the safety consideration of possibly using a purse not designed for concealed carry and leaving it in the purse without adequate trigger coverage, which raises the possibility of ND.
This goes for men as well, with portfolio/daytimer holsters, and in general, all methods of off-the-body carry. Devices not designed to carry guns are being kludged to do so, inviting accidents. And again, there is the risk that the off-the-body carry method chosen can be stolen, lost, or the gun stolen from the bag/daytimer/purse/etc.
However, I am aware that some people, due to dress codes, comfort, or some combination of factors simply cannot carry on their body, so these off-body carry methods are their only options for defensive carry. If that's the case, then these people need to be intimately aware of the additional risks involved in these carry methods. Otherwise, they should do as much research as possible in finding some carry method that gives them secure and ready access to their weapon on their body.
Galco has a page devoted to "top picks" for women:
Cornered Cat has an excellent article on holsters for women on her blog:
Fist, Inc. has their LadyFist line:
And here is a video clip from Fist showing advantages of their holsters made specifically for women:
I know there are a few other makers, but I can't find links right away.
If an IWB solution can't be found, OWB seems to be fairly popular with women, both strong side and crossdraw, though crossdraw would probably need some training in drawing the weapon properly so as not to sweep non-threats with the muzzle. The same could be said for shoulder holster carry, which is another option. Unfortunately, OWB, crossdraw, and shoulder holsters would require some sort of cover garment.
Not just for women, but anyone looking into IWB carry and not wanting to acquire their own, dreaded, "holster drawer" or rejects, I'd recommend visiting your local IDPA match and asking folks there about their IWB carry methods. I use the same holster (Crossbreed Supertuck) in IDPA competition that I do for EDC, and wouldn't mind letting folks try it out.
In between stages or after the match, of course.
Ye gods, I've rambled...