I LOVE LOVE LOVE the women's bar for Olympic Lifting. First off I was kinda like... Feeling that it was second rate or something... But I've come to love it. Mostly because the guys I was training with were super jealous that I got to use it legitimately because they totally would have loved to use it themselves mwah haha.
It is competition standard. Like with shot put the women's shot put is different from the mens shot put. I think the women's one weighs a bit less and might be a bit smaller as well.
The women's bar is narrower. That makes it easier to grip. The idea being that women tend to (but don't always) have smaller hands. The narrower nature of it makes it easier for ANYONE to grip, though.
Because the women's bar is narrower it is whippier. If you imagine loading up different bars for the deadlift then the bar will typically 'give' or bend a bit before the weight leaves the ground when the weight is heavy. A powerlifting bar is designed to be stff so a deadlift if a true 'dead' lift. It doesn't give much at all. The men's oly bar has more give - the bar will bend more before the weights leave the floor. The women's bar has even more give. What that means...
If you are fast and accurate in hauling your butt under the bar for snatches and cleans... You can beat the bar and it will come down on you just a little... When it comes down on you the weights will come down a little further as the bar will bend. The weights will then catapult themselves up a little and you use that momentum to help catapult you out the hole. Oh so much fun when you time this correctly!
I thought all... Perhaps all COMPETITION standard (but not TRAINING standard) women's oly bars also don't have a center knurl. What that means... Apparently it is because women's skin tends to be more delecate and a number of women complained about their necks getting all scraped up from the center knurling when they trained cleans often. So... They got rid of the center knurl. It sounds a bit ... wussy or something... but i surely appreciated it when I was doing a lot of cleaning and front squatting. Would look like I had neck rope burn or something if I trained without the women's bar. The women's bar I'm training with now does have a center knurl, though. It is a buffalo bar apparently. I think it might be a training quality bar rather than a competition quality bar, though... Still... I LOVE it compared to the mens Eleiko, even.
Sorry for the rant. One of my favourite topics.
Upshot: If you want to train Oly Lifting seriously do yourself a favor and get a women's bar. It is much much much more rewarding of speed and accuracy than a guys bar. And it is the competition standard. Not a stupid concession to women. If that makes sense.