Acute ischemic stroke affects men and women differently. In particular, women are often reported to experience higher acute stroke severity than men. We derived a low-dimensional representation of anatomical stroke lesions and designed a Bayesian hierarchical modeling framework tailored to estimate possible sex differences in lesion patterns linked to acute stroke severity (National Institute of Health Stroke Scale). This framework was developed in 555 patients (38% female). Findings were validated in an independent cohort (n = 503, 41% female). Here, we show brain lesions in regions subserving motor and language functions help explain stroke severity in both men and women, however more widespread lesion patterns are relevant in female patients. Higher stroke severity in women, but not men, is associated with left hemisphere lesions in the vicinity of the posterior circulation. Our results suggest there are sex-specific functional cerebral asymmetries that may be important for future investigations of sex-stratified approaches to management of acute ischemic stroke.