male female CEO

What makes a perfect business partnership? Well, compatible business philosophies and visions among the co-founders (or co-CEOs) are musts, as are symbiotic working styles. It helps if each party has different—and, crucially, complementary—skills and interests.

It also might help if one CEO is a man and the other a woman.

New research by Women of Influence Inc. and Thomson Reuters suggests that businesses would run much better if they had both male and female executives sharing the top job. The study, called Women Leaders Breaking Through in Their Careers, identifies how female senior executives from across North America define their leadership skills, career satisfaction, challenges faced and plans for the future.

In today’s business environment, the report argues, there is “little to no” consideration given to how to use the inherent qualities and skills of both genders in a complementary way in leadership positions. (For instance, women have long been understood to be, by and large, better at building relationships and fostering collaboration than their male counterparts—both of which are strong leadership skills.) And that’s a major opportunity missed, the study’s authors argue.

Read: Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs for 2013

It’s hardly news that men and women tend to have different leadership styles, so why is now the right time for more female leaders to join their male counterparts at the top? Swagger, the researchers contend. The survey suggests that women today are far more confident in their innate strengths and capabilities. A full 84% of survey respondents said they no longer feel they must behave like men to succeed in business. The same percentage of respondents scored highly in self-confidence, with no qualms about confidently expressing what they think and feel.

Barbara Annis, a gender intelligence expert who has been studying this topic for almost three decades, says the results are encouraging.

“Never before have we witnessed such assurance among executive women,” she explains. “What we are seeing today demonstrates why we need to rethink our outdated views on C-suite leadership and consider the benefits of moving toward a platform that would alter the future of business by combining the talent and skills innate to both genders; that being the appointment of co-gender leaders.”

Women of Influence president and CEO Carolyn Lawrence elaborates on this, pointing out that female business leaders are rapidly shedding any notions of victimhood: “Rather than making excuses, women executives are taking their future into their own hands and seeking solutions to eliminate the barriers on their path to the top of the corporate ladder.”

And women wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from this change. Organizations as a whole would become better, says Patsy Doerr, who is the global head of diversity and inclusion, as well as corporate social responsibility, for Thomson Reuters. “Companies that foster a culture of inclusion and invite diversity of thinking will, ultimately, reap the benefits, have a competitive advantage and will be best prepared for the future of business,” she says.

Do you believe companies run better when there are both men and women at the executive level? Do you see this becoming more common? Share your thoughts below.

Psst! Nominations are open until June 30 for the 2014 PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs. Enter now!

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