For law firms, having a woman chief executive sends a signal that the firm doesn’t have a glass ceiling. But if firms want to make a dent in the compensation and promotion gap, the solution may be in the rung below: the number of women in key decision-making committees. Firms that had compensation committees with two or more women members typically also had near-parity in compensation among men and women equity partners, according to a 2014 survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers. At firms with fewer women, female equity partners typically earned 11-15 percent less than their male counterparts, the survey found.

In fact, an increasing chorus of business psychologists say, two isn’t enough. Citing the so-called rule of three, women’s initiative heads are pushing firms to increase female representation on important commit4tees to three or more. “Firms think there are only one or two women capable of leadership, and they get pegged for every position that’s open,” says Orrick employment partner Patricia Gillette. “With two women on a committee, they’re not always willing to rock the boat. With a third woman, that changes.”

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