Sporting Life Spotlight: ​Nadia Vattovaz, CFO and what International Women’s Day means to her

This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating the many accomplished and inspiring women of Sporting Life who are making a difference in the lives of women near and far. Our CFO, Nadia Vattovaz, believes in advocating for the next generation, loves Pink, and compares herself to an Oreo cookie. 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? 

Every year, I view International Women’s Day as a call to action and an awareness campaign to keep women’s rights and issues on the global agenda. At 54, I have gone through many issues on this front and I feel a responsibility to help the next generation of women to advance our cause further. Times have changed. Women are learning the power of sisterhood and being advocates for each other. There’s not a week that goes by that I am not connecting amazing women, mentoring, advocating, etc. Us older, experienced leaders really have to embrace this and help create opportunities. I don’t just want to talk about things, I want to get individual women seats at the table. That’s really how things change. 

How are you celebrating International Women’s Day?

I have no specific plans this year. I am open to ideas!

How can we make “every day” International Women’s Day?

Talk is cheap. It’s all about finding the opportunities out there and helping other women grab them. I’ll paraphrase a woman I deeply respect, Marie Henein. I don’t want to talk about whether women should be here or not — we’re done with that discussion. I want to talk about getting them seats at the table. That’s when they prove their value.

How would you describe your style?

Very straightforward. I say what I mean and I mean what I say — add big dashes of humour in that. People who know me well have likened me to an Oreo cookie. Tough on the outside and soft in the middle. The older I get, the more I care about watching the people around me grow and helping them where I can. I get huge satisfaction from that. I am a HUGE Pink fan. She is smart, irreverent, kind, informed, humourous and her own person.

What is your proudest achievement?

Motherhood, hands down. It’s my #1 priority, always. I have been a lousy mother at times, a good one at times. While kids come hard-wired, as a parent, all you can do is coach them to be great human beings for this world. I’d like to think that I did this to the best of my ability. My nose still hurts from face planting on this one many, many times.

Who is the biggest female role model in your life?

My mother. She was an immigrant, poor with little education. She figured out a way at 16 to make a career as a hairdresser, get into great salons in Toronto to train and started her own business. She worked day and night to put me and my brother through school and was always there to help. She is scrappy, relentless, hilarious, generous, hopeful and kind. She just retired at 80 and still ballroom dances. Rosemary is true grit and resilience and her hugs are chicken soup for my soul. What’s not to admire?

For those who know you best, what are three words they would use to describe you?

I did the survey with friends and fam that know me best and results were: dynamic, curious, people-oriented. #4 was energetic but it was a tight race and I can’t share the comments flying back and forth in that group chat…

How do you bring that “girl power” energy?

By being just who I am, unabashedly. I was told for years to be softer, put on a smile, speak with a gentler voice. What baloney. The minute I cast that silliness aside, I felt empowered. I wish that for all women and that they come to that realization much earlier than I did.

What are some of the ways you’re paving the way for young women?

After years in the industry, I am fortunate to have met some really great leaders, women and men, who share a similar philosophy on the advancement of women and how to raise our little girls to embrace risk. I have noticed that young women who have been taught to take risks and encouraged to fall down and get back up again are also more courageous in their careers. So first, I raise money to help build and fund programs for young girls in industries that have lower female representation (STEM, financial markets, etc). Then it’s coaching for primarily the 25-40 group but, most importantly, linking women with great opportunities. I’m a natural networker and I find this super fun to do.

Up until a couple years ago, I was very active with a women’s shelter. My part was finding them jobs and clothes so they could get out of the cycle of dependency and make a life for themselves and their kids without abuse. I had to take a step back for a bit — it was soul crushing in the pandemic. I will get back to it — I’m feeling re-energized.

Do you have any hobbies that fulfill your passions?

It’s totally embarrassing. I woke up one morning and said to my husband “I have no hobbies. What am I going to do when I retire?” It was a full on, smack-in-the-face epiphany. He laughed at me and said, “Seriously? You are on a board of directors, are a business adviser to two young entrepreneurs and coach two people.” And it dawned on me that those are my hobbies. I love business strategy, growth, doing deals, coaching and great pubco corporate governance. Also, teenagers energize me — I learn so much from them.

What are some words of wisdom you would tell your younger self?

Embrace who you are and capitalize on your personal strengths rather than focusing on your weaknesses.

For more spotlight stories, read along under International Women’s Day and follow us on Instagram @sportinglifeca.