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How women can secure more seats in the boardroom

Women are struggling to break into company boardrooms and get a seat at the table. In the United States, women account for just 12% of boardroom membership, severely below many European countries, according to a report by PwC.

Deb Henretta, senior advisor at SSA & Company, told Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith that it's time to take action to ensure women are in top leadership positions.

First, set clear and measurable goals, which include looking beyond the typical CEO role for potential board members. “If you have a goal that you encourage companies to achieve, I think we'll start to see more progress,” said Henretta. “We're going to have to look a little bit harder and look for women that are running large profitable businesses within companies or having leadership roles within those companies, but not necessarily having the CEO title.”

Henretta also said it’s important for companies to encourage the movement and progression of women, extend maternity and paternity leave and incorporate flexible work schedules.

And it's in a company's best interest to have women in c-level positions.  According to a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which included 21,980 firms from 91 countries, gender diversity in high leadership roles results in improved firm performance.

In an effort to address the lack of women in leadership positions, some countries have introduced mandated quotas for female boardroom membership. In 2003, Norway was the first in Europe to legislate boardroom quotas, followed by Spain and Iceland. In 2011, a bill was passed in France requiring 40% female directorship by 2016. And so far it looks like the mandate is working. PwC found that the largest increases were observed in countries with specific targets for female board membership. Norway is the worldwide leader with 39% of female boardroom representation, followed by Finland (30%), France (26%), Germany (17%) and the United Kingdom (17%).

The success overseas highlights the fact that while there’s progress being made in the US, more needs to be done. “We’ve nearly doubled the number of women board members over the past decade, but that progress just isn’t fast enough. We need to see more women get onto boards because the boardroom is where important critical decisions like strategy and succession planning are being made,” said Henretta.

And if companies are searching for the appropriate actions to take, Henretta said there are some big corporations that are setting a great example. “Netflix (NFLX) recently extended its maternity and paternity leaves… Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) [has a] Women's Leadership Initiative where they're taking steps to try to internally promote women and to get them ready for increasing levels of responsibility.”