By Tracy Miller Geary
Natalie Egan is a pioneer in both the tech industry and today’s culture. An openly transgender entrepreneur, she is the CEO of Translator, a groundbreaking diversity & inclusion software for corporations, schools, and organizations around the world. She comes to Northeastern on October 23 to tell her story about finding her authentic self, becoming a better leader, and starting a company to scale empathy and equality through technology.
The idea for Translator came in 2016, based on her experience coming out as a transgender woman. Experiencing bias, discrimination, and hatred for the first time made her realize how important it was to start the conversation about diversity and inclusion. “The conversation needs to be happening,” Egan stresses. “We need education and awareness.”
Prior to Translator, Egan was CEO and founder of PeopleLinx, a venture capital backed start-up that helped sales professionals build relationships and drive deals using online social networks. Before PeopleLinx, she held leadership positions at LinkedIn, Hewlett Packard, and Ecolab.
Though she had worked in the tech industry for over 20 years, when Egan first introduced the idea of her diversity and inclusion training platform, she was disheartened to initially be “laughed out of the room” and told “there is no market for this product.”
The concept has taken root, and Translator has grown “from a novel idea to something that we need right now.” With diversity and inclusion now on everyone’s mind because of the political climate, she has seen “a thaw at the corporate top,” which allowed her to establish the foundation to implement the right tools.
Translator stands out from other training software companies in that it measures behavior and gathers data allowing companies to enhance and also assess the effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion training. Egan points out, “Other parts of businesses are measured, but before now, not their [workplace] culture.” She stresses that the solution to the problem of culture is data. “You cannot ignore a problem if you can measure it. Companies need to understand their own culture to know what stereotypes or patterns of privilege are impacting employment and engagement.”
Egan spends a lot of time on the road, getting her message of inclusion to as many people as she can, even though it means being away from her family and putting herself in often difficult situations. She acknowledges that with the support she’s received and a background of privilege, she is in a position to make change. Through it all, she remains determined to “to start the conversation, to highlight the conversation, and move the conversation forward.”
Egan will integrate technology into her talk at Northeastern by leading the audience through a digitized version of the Walk of Privilege on their phones. While this exercise is designed to point out privilege, she takes it further by asking the audience, “What are you going to do about [your privilege]?” She then tells her story, or, as she describes it, her journey from “from sympathy to empathy.”
“Sometimes it seems like I’m the tech industry’s Laverne Cox,” Egan says in closing, referencing the acclaimed transgender actress whose work inspires the media transgender community. “Now that I’m me, I just want to be me, but I can’t,” she says. “I also want to do good things.”
Northeastern faculty, staff and students are encouraged to come hear Egan on October 23, from 4:00pm – 5:15pm, at the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex (ISEC), Auditorium – Room 102, 805 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02120. Sign up here.