SOMETHING PEOPLE DON'T USUALLY KNOW ABOUT ME: I love country music. SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME LAUGH: Group chats with my best friends from high school. WHEN I WAS A KID, I HAD WANTED TO BE THIS WHEN I GREW UP: A woman, a mother, an artist, and an entrepreneur. EARLIEST ENTREPRENEURIAL MEMORY: I started a door-to-door recycling business (route) when I was about 8 years old. Since than I have started over 250 businesses (it’s just that most of them didn’t have any customers (AT ALL)... I guess I am a fail fast kind of girl!
The power of a trans woman’s determination
TRANSLATING DIVERSITY INTO ACTION. “There has been a recent call to action in corporate America, and there is a sense that we need to use corporate dollars to fight for diversity and inclusion,” says Natalie J. Egan. It’s a confluence of many things—the #MeTooMovement, Black Lives Matter, the Trump administration, so many more—these foster a critical moment where people have become aware that things need to change, she says.
And that’s where Natalie’s Translator, Inc., a company with a technology platform that helps with diversity and inclusion training, comes into play. “Regardless of their level of readiness, from being fully on board to just learning about improving diversity, companies are recognizing that a more diverse and inclusive workforce is also a stronger one,” she says. Companies from startups to Fortune 500 ones are willing to take a risk to improve, because the risk of not doing anything comes with a bigger downside.
Translator’s platform uses various digital anonymous exercises to help managers and employees understand their inherent biases, stereotypes and differences in privilege and access. These reveal the diversity within a team, and what can be done to improve it.
BEING TRANS AND BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR. Despite the value of the company and the product, funding the idea was difficult. “I had built an enterprise software company, and had raised $7 million dollars as a cisgender white male with no problem. Now, as an openly transgender female entrepreneur, raising money is much harder.”
Initially, Natalie refused to acknowledge that being trans or a woman was what led to the challenges. “I had been successful before, so what has changed?” She recalls having heard the sentiment “I can’t quite figure out why I’m uncomfortable investing in your company” so many times. She even undertook a due diligence process for a VC firm, only for them to say no at the end of it. After a while, the patterns were unmistakable to Natalie: it’s because most people have never seen a successful trans woman entrepreneur, and don’t believe that we can do it, she says.
It is by virtue of understanding hardship that Natalie feels this responsibility to deliver change. In 2015, prior to coming out as trans, she had been let go from her company by a CEO she installed, and her marriage had dissolved. “I had identified as a cross dresser, but when I saw so many high profile people coming out as transgender in the media, I started to explore whether I could have been trans too.” When she ultimately came to accept that she was trans, she was worried. “I recall thinking, ‘This is terrible, what am I going to do? No one is going to accept me.”
Then, a divine intervention occurred. She ran into her best friend from high school, who was a typical alpha-male type man. Natalie told him she was transgender. “He said ‘Bro, you gotta do you. You gotta be you,’ and somehow that gave me the courage to try to be myself. It was his unwavering confidence in me, that if someone like my best friend can accept my identity, maybe my other good friend could, and then my family."
“That compassion I was shown is why I’m fighting against all odds and privilege,” Natalie says. The trans community needs to come together, and support needs to come from wherever it can get. “If whatever privilege I have can help the community, I want to do it.”