Businesswoman leading meeting

The 4 Ps to finding your voice as a woman leader

According to FCPA Deborah Rosati, making a difference in the senior ranks is all about embracing your purpose, passion, presence and power

Businesswoman leading meetingPresence is all about capturing the attention of a room by finding your signature voice (Getty Images/Compassionate Eye Foundation)

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of studies showing that having more women in senior roles at an organization can have a positive impact on its success. And, while we are still far from gender parity in the C-suite and on boards, there is at least a greater awareness of the value of having women at the table. 

But let’s say you are among those who have been promoted—or are hoping to be promoted—to a leadership position. How do you ensure that you actually make a difference once you are there? 

According to FCPA Deborah Rosati, a corporate director, entrepreneur and founder of Women Get On Board, finding your voice at the management or boardroom table is all about embracing the four Ps: purpose, presence, passion and power. 


Whether you’re just starting out or already partway along on your career, it’s important to consider how well you align with the mission and goals of the organization you are serving. 

“You have to know why you are there,” says Rosati. “It’s difficult to get excited about your job if you’re not excited about its purpose. That is what allows you to really evolve and build your network from the very beginning. If you’re clear with your purpose, your voice can be heard.” 

Rosati adds that there is a lot more focus on purpose-driven companies than there used to be, so many new CPAs or other professionals will naturally seek out organizations where they feel an alignment. And this applies to volunteer work and board appointments as well.

Purpose is also about knowing what you bring to the table. “You should know what your skills and expertise are, how to leverage them and also how to develop them,” says Rosati.

Deborah RosatiFCPA Deborah Rosati is a corporate director, entrepreneur and founder of Women Get On Board (Image provided)


Once you are aware of your purpose, you can follow your passion, says Rosati. “Passion is all about knowing why you care about a particular subject, pursuit or issue,” she says. “When you are passionate about something, it automatically elevates your voice—and it’s contagious. It gives everyone around you greater enthusiasm and excitement for their work.”

As an example, Rosati exemplifies her own experience with the National Ballet School. “I’ve loved ballet ever since I was a little girl,” she says. “That is my passion. And I have financial and governance expertise—that is my purpose. So, I was able to align my purpose with my passion by joining the board of the school.” 


If you are clear on your purpose and your passion, you can turn your attention to the way you demonstrate them to others. That is where presence comes in.

As Rosati explains, presence is all about capturing the attention of a room. “The concept is very well presented in a book called Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence,” she says. “The authors provide an excellent framework for gaining presence by finding your signature voice. That is one that is neither too passive nor too driving but combines an ability to communicate in a distinctive way with an ability to connect and align with your audience.”

According to Rosati, you can develop your own signature voice by asking for actionable feedback from colleagues. Even if you are shy, you can overcome your hesitancy with practice.

But above all, you should stand up for what you believe in. “If you truly believe in something, you want to make sure you are heard. Be fearless.”


Your power is your ability to influence decisions and effect change at various stages in your career. There are three components, says Rosati: leaning in, learning up and sponsoring.

Leaning in: This means being assertive and moving toward a leadership role rather than a follower’s role. And, according to Rosati, many women have trouble with the concept. “But it’s important not to shy away from opportunities to shine,” she says. “For example, you might be asked to lean in on a certain project or assignment that is not part of your normal duties but that will allow you to take a leading role.”

Learning up: CPAs naturally have a minimum professional development requirement but you shouldn’t stop there, says Rosati. “Knowledge is power and it’s by learning that you amplify your power.”

As an example, Rosati explains that when she joined a blockchain infrastructure technology company board in 2020, she had to familiarize herself with the industry. “Since I am not an expert on blockchain, I needed to learn up in that area so I could make informed business decisions,”  she says.

Sponsoring: Throughout your career, you may be given opportunities thanks to the support of mentors and sponsors. But, as Rosati points out, you also need to support others. “I was named an FCPA in 2009 and every year since then I have made sure to nominate someone else, because it’s a critical part of our profession. You may take but you also have to give back.”


At the end of the day, finding your voice is a confidence building exercise: Rosati freely admits that it took her years to reach the point where she is comfortable speaking up at the leadership table. “But, if I were to give some lessons to my younger self, the first one would be this: “You deserve to be at the table—whether it be the management table, project table or any table. And, as Kamala Harris once said, ‘You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you. But you are not alone … you are powerful and your voice matters.’


Gain insights and inspiration from three female CPAs at different stages in their careers. And make sure to attend the AICPA and CIMA women’s global leadership summit 2023, where you’ll join hundreds of accounting and finance professionals who are committed to creating an inclusive and equal profession.