OBJECTIVE To determine whether men and women with type 2 diabetes have different psychosocial, behavioural, and clinical characteristics at the time of their first visit to a diabetes education centre. DESIGN A questionnaire on psychosocial and behavioural characteristics was administered at participants’ first appointments. Clinical and disease-related data were collected from their medical records. Bivariate analyses (χ2 test, t test, and Mann-Whitney test) were conducted to examine differences between men and women on the various characteristics. SETTING Two diabetes education centres in the greater Toronto area in Ontario. PARTICIPANTS A total of 275 men and women with type 2 diabetes. RESULTS Women were more likely to have a family history of diabetes,previous diabetes education, and higher expectations of the benefits of self-management. Women reported higher levels of social support from their diabetes health care team than men did, and had more depressive symptoms, higher body mass, and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol than men did. CONCLUSION The results of this study provide evidence that diabetes prevention, care, and education need to be targeted to men and women differently. Primary care providers should encourage men to attend diabetes self-management education sessions and emphasize the benefits of self-care. Primary care providers should promote regular diabetes screening and primary prevention to women, particularly women with a family history of diabetes or a high body mass index; emphasize the importance of weight management for those with and without diabetes; and screen diabetic women for depressive symptoms.