Natalie Egan is the founder and CEO of Translator. A true trailblazer, she spearheaded the creation of the ‘first and only 360 degree platform for enterprise diversity and inclusion.’ Drawing on her experience as a successful businessman, she came out as trans and founded Translator, a company that uses technology to spread empathy and equality at scale. She is also a parent, athlete, empath, and general badass!
We spoke with her about using technology to drive diversity and inclusion training, developing her personal style, and any advice she has to offer people struggling with their own identity.
Any specific experience that you want to share that contributed to your decision to transition?
I always knew I was different, but I didn’t know why. Finally, I had this realization that everything I did was for other people rather than for myself. The narrative I had built around my life came to a grinding halt and I couldn’t keep living the way I was. As a result of that moment, I almost ended my life.
The day after I realized I was trans, I ran into a friend from college completely randomly. I decided to share my identity with him, almost as a test, and he responded: you have to be you. He saved my life in that encounter, and I eventually built up the courage and confidence to come out.
Prior to transitioning, you mentioned that you were living for other people. What helped you break out of that mindset?
I think it was a long process. I came from a lot of privilege and resources, which meant high expectations. I was taught there was a formula for happiness I had to follow: work hard, get married, have kids, and then be happy. I did those things and the truth was I could never be happy because I wasn’t being me; I was so disconnected from the world. I couldn’t keep living in the narrative I had created and I had to stop.
When you shared your story, what surprised you about the way people reacted?
When I decided to transition, it was the beginning of my journey towards empathy. I didn’t know what “empathy” even meant before. Though I used the word a lot, I couldn’t feel for other people because I couldn’t feel for myself. In fact, I used to confuse empathy and sympathy!
Sharing my story so intimately and transparently with the world meant people started sharing their stories with me. That changed me. I started to develop empathy, which is what surprised me the most.
Translator is a tech company that teaches empathy and inclusion. What inspired you to found it and how do you teach empathy?
What I’ve discovered is that developing empathy comes down to storytelling, so Translator is focused on helping people interact with stories in new ways through simple training technology. Stories are memorable, which is why they help people better understand themselves and other people. With technology in 2018 and beyond, you can tell stories in ways we’ve never done before.
How is Translator applied specifically to the workplace? What do you envision for the workplace of the future as a space that has access to these stories?
Translator is creating technology where there was none. We are focused on diversity and inclusion which is an emerging category that hasn’t been paid attention to because it hasn’t been exciting. Our vision is that the future of workplace diversity & inclusion is data driven – and we are going to pioneer that.
Why did you decide to subscribe to Rent the Runway?
A big part of why I subscribed to Rent The Runway after transitioning was because I had no idea what my sense of style was. I was suffering as a result of it by buying lots of clothes that were not my style that I then wasn’t wearing. RTR helped me figure out how I wanted to look in a cost-efficient way – it’s an amazing creative outlet that has helped me become me.
How would you describe your personal style?
I like to feel feminine and sexy, but balance that appropriately for the workplace. I tend to stay away from clothing associated with men and masculinity, and like to really show off my legs. I love wearing dresses, color and being playful with my style.
Do you have a go-to outfit that makes you feel the most confident?
A sleeveless colorblocked sheath dress, open-toed shoes, and a nice pair of earrings. I dress to feel confident – throw in a really nice bag, and I am SUPERWOMAN.
What kind of advice do you have to offer someone who is struggling with confidence or identity?
You are not alone and your experience is valid. There are people and communities for you. The internet – Instagram and YouTube in particular – is great for finding representation. They can help you find ways to connect with whatever part of your identity you don’t feel ready to share, and to fulfill a need and express yourself in a healthy way without jeopardizing your safety.
Did you find a community in Rent the Runway?
Rent the Runway has been a community for me in every way! I used to be so afraid to shop for myself when before I transitioned: I would go to a mall in the middle of nowhere and have a whole story ready to say if I ran into someone I know – that I was shopping for my wife.
In stark contrast, now I walk into the RTR store and see familiar faces. I’ve developed important relationships and friendships with people there. Now that I know who I am, RTR has helped me refine the actual expression of how I want people to see me. From when I step on stage at a conference to when I’m getting on the subway… All these moments are defining how people think about me because they are looking at me and constructing a narrative. As a trans person, I feel like I can control that narrative better when I’m expressing myself the way I want to. RTR helps me do that: they help me control the narrative.
Anything else you want to add?
The trans community needs your help right now and I am not asking for charity. Our basic human rights are being stripped away and we need allies to help us survive these attacks. And if you want to help, the best thing you can do for us is to hire us or give us opportunities. Many of just want jobs. And if you can’t give us jobs, help educate us. And if you can’t do that just believe us and use our pronouns correctly. It makes a difference and we can’t win this fight by ourselves. Thank you.
You can follow more of Natalie’s amazing work at Translator on Instagram.
WE BELIEVE IN WOMEN SUPPORTING OTHER WOMEN AND IN THIS SERIES, WE FOCUS ON THE EXCEPTIONAL WOMEN WHO REPRESENT INNOVATION, RISK-TAKING, LEADERSHIP, AND STYLE. THESE WOMEN RAISE THE BAR FOR THEMSELVES AND OTHERS, REDEFINING MOTHERHOOD FOR THE BETTER AS THEY PURSUE THEIR PROFESSIONAL CAREERS AND PERSONAL PROJECTS. THEY ARE THE WOMEN OF THE FUTURE.