Does Gender Matter When Choosing a Life Coach?

You’re stuck on what business decision to make, or unsure of what path to take – or perhaps there’s a challenge you don’t know how to face. That’s something a business coach could help with.

But it is better to choose a coach of the same gender, or one from the opposite gender? And what might be the advantages of a man choosing a woman coach?

Unlike a doctor, who, irrespective of gender, can diagnose the same illness with the same set of facts, a business coach analyses the many shades of nuances and idiosyncrasies of communication and decision-making.

In other words, it’s an art, rather than a science.

How that art plays out could be different, depending on the gender, say two women business coaches.

Science lately has confirmed at least one key difference between the genders. Men and women have different kinds of brains, and “women have thirty per cent more verbal capacity,” says Cynthia Barlow, founder of Toronto’s C3 Conversations, a company that provides personal and business coaching.

As such, they’re more natural at articulating feelings, and “are more prepared for emotional hurdles,” says Barlow.

Men, on the other hand, don’t always have this instinct; in fact, “emotions frighten most men. They don’t always know how to handle them in an office situation,” she says.

And a female business coach, according to Barlow, might have a natural knack to zone in on the issue.

“A male counterpart might not immediately see the precise emotional problem that has plagued a client. A woman coach could bring an executive a different point of view,” she asserts.

Some male clients in the past sought her out to help them deal specifically with emotional distress. “They needed to learn how to extend empathy, a key leadership attribute.”

Moreover, other advantages are that “a female coach could help male clients better understand a female superior. A man with a male coach might just talk to him like he’s one of the guys, and the informality might not tackle the real problems.”

Kara Deringer, a business coach out of Edmonton, says that she has even noticed how male and female clients can have different needs.

Women more than men tend to complain about “being pulled in a million different directions,” Deringer says.

“I do think that women are better at multitasking. As a result, we place more demands on ourselves, and face demands from other people.”

Deringer holds a Masters degree in Conflict Management and teaches communication at the University of Alberta’s School of Business. Her second book on entrepreneurial advice, Chica, recently became a #1 global bestseller.

She says that another challenge that many women face is what she refers to as the ‘people pleaser’ syndrome.

“In the short-term, it always seems like it’s easier to say yes, and be agreeable, and have people like you. But the challenge is that in the long-term this just isn’t effective or efficient,” because women agree to “things that aren’t always beneficial and realistic.”

Meanwhile, a male client “may need empathy at one point, encouragement at another point, and even confrontation at another point.”

Then again, a man simply might choose a woman coach, well, because of something totally unrelated to any particular intellectual attribute.

“I think there’s something to be said for sexual tension,” says Deringer.

“There seems to be an appeal for men to work with an attractive woman. It’s pure fascination.”

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