A few days ago one of my daughters asked me an interesting question. She had inadvertently forgotten to daven mincha, it was already after shkiya, and she wanted to know what to do.
A bit of background: my daughters do not ordinarily daven ma'ariv, nor does my wife. Although some Rishonim (e.g. R' Yonah) write that women should daven three times a day, the Mishna Berurah and many other poskim do not quote this view. The difference between ma'ariv and other tefilos stems from the fact that the gemara labels ma'ariv as reshus (Brachos 26), as opposed to shacharis and mincha, which are obligatory. Whether reshus means ma'ariv is not required at all or it simply means that ma'ariv can be deferred when faced with other obligations (as Tosfos writes), the bottom line is that it is a lesser obligation. Despite this theoretical distinction, in practice men always daven ma'ariv, in effect accepting it as obligatory. Women, however, have never adopted the practice of always davening ma'ariv, and for them it remains a reshus but not an obligation.
The one exception my wife and others make to this rule is that she davens ma'ariv on Fri. night and Erev Yom Tov. There is a complex reason why this makes sense (R' Ya'akov Emden and the Sha'arei Tshuvah quote this view), but for the sake of simplicity let me just explain what may be a side benefit of this practice. According to some poskim a man fulfills his mitzvah d'oraysa of kiddush in his davening; the kiddush recited over wine at the meal is only derabbanan. The Dagul m'Revava famously asks: how can a man who has already fulfilled his mitzvah d'oraysa of kiddush be motzi his wife at the meal when she has not? If one's wife has also already davened ma'ariv that question is rendered moot.
Getting back to our story, the halacha is that if a tefilah is missed it can be made up by davening an extra shmoneh esrei during the immediately following prayer period. For example, if you miss shacharis, you would daven a double shmonei esrei at mincha, the first being tefilas mincha, the second being a tashlumin make-up for shacharis. What should a women do if she missed mincha but does not ordinarily daven ma'ariv, the prayer period which immediately follows?
The Halichos Beisa writes (ch 6.) that in this case, even a woman who ordinarily does not daven ma'ariv should daven and add the tashlumin for mincha (which is what I told my daughter to do). What I found interesting is his proof. Poskim write that if a woman is running late on Friday and candlelighting time is approaching it is better for her to light candles than to daven mincha because she can always make up mincha later with tashlumin after ma'ariv -- QED that there is tashlumin for mincha at ma'ariv. I am not sure why this case is the paradigm for what to do when mincha is missed on Sunday or any other day. Perhaps only on Friday night when even many women who otherwise do not daven ma'ariv do so is there the possibility of tashlumin, but on other nights, where ma'ariv is ordinarily skipped, there is no tashlumin. The logic behind the Halichos Beisa's conclusion seems to be that since ma'ariv can be davened on any night, the possibility of doing so (even though one treats it as an obligation only on Erev Shabbos) is what allows for tashlumin.
One additional important point that I think my wife has brought up on her blog -- reshus means optional, not prohibited. Oftentimes a shul will hold a shiur open to men and women that is preceded by ma'ariv or followed by ma'ariv, and while the men daven, the women will slip out or stand in the back talking. Certainly if you are already in shul and have the opportunity to daven in a tzibur, to deliberately stand aside and engage in other activity instead of davening seems strange. Why not take advantage of the opportunity for avodas Hashem?
I don't know anything about the author of Halichos Beisa, but I wonder if he, like me, has more daughters than sons and therefore spent time working through these issues. I try to make time to learn the sefer with one of my daughters on Shabbos and aside from her gain in knowledge and I have found more often than not that I walk away with an interesting mareh makom or chiddush as well.