Michele C. Meyer-Shipp, Esq. is a diversity leader, who has built a track record of success by using D&I strategies to drive business results at Prudential Financial. As vice president and chief diversity officer, Michele is responsible for leading and directing all diversity initiatives for Prudential and ensuring ongoing compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity/affirmative action laws. And, as a person with a disability and parent to a child with a disability, Michele is working hard to promote disability inclusion in the workforce, including serving on the National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) Board of Directors.
The National Organization on Disability recently sat down with Michele to find out what drives her passion for workplace inclusion—and learn more about her strategies for success.
1. What led you to choose a career in diversity inclusion?
I began my career as an attorney, specializing in employment and labor issues, and was later appointed to serve as the lead equal employment opportunity and affirmative action officer for the State of New Jersey by its then governor. So, when this job as Chief Diversity Officer became available, it was a natural fit for me. I have a passion for equality in all shapes and forms, am an advocate and work tirelessly for the underserved. Working to raise awareness of workplace diversity and inclusion issues, and being a catalyst for change, has been the opportunity of a lifetime.
2. Why has Prudential made disability a central part of its inclusion efforts?
Prudential is proud to be known as a leader in the disability inclusion space. We were recently informed that Prudential’s percentage of employees who have self-identified as having a disability is above the average found in NOD’s annual corporate survey, the Disability Employment Tracker™, which we can attribute in large part to our “Count Me In” campaign. “Count Me In” is about building awareness, trust, and appreciation, and these are the same ingredients that are important to engaging our workforce in general. “Count Me In” has helped some of our employees find their voice and share their full identity in a way they had not previously done at work.
We have a disability strategy in place and have partnered with NOD on a Disability Inclusion Accelerator™ briefing, which allowed us to go deeper in our benchmarking, assess progress against our plans, and identify new actions we need to incorporate into our future plans. Prudential is deeply committed to this work, and we are not resting on our success – we are looking to raise the bar even higher.
3. What elements of your strategy have been most instrumental in building a culture of inclusion at Prudential?
We have done a lot to communicate our commitment to disability inclusion – our ADAPT Business Resource Group is very active and has held numerous events to create awareness about disability in the workplace.
We track a wide-array of metrics that help us tell an evidenced-based story – we have built the business case and secured the commitment and investment needed to make change across the organization.
Also, I believe that the engagement of multiple leaders in this journey has been extremely instrumental in building a culture of inclusion at Prudential. This includes both senior business leaders and partners across corporate HR (Staffing, Employee Relations, Learning and Development and Health & Wellness to name a few). We have been able to bring these partners to the table to help us improve our ability to provide accommodations – and they all recognize the business case for creating an inclusive environment that allows Prudential to attract and retain the best talent.
4. What are you most proud of regarding your efforts at Prudential and elsewhere?
One of the things I am most proud of is the executive level support we’ve gotten for D&I efforts across the company. The high level of real-time commitment to the work of D&I by our senior leaders and corporate partners is extraordinary. They understand that D&I is not merely the work of the D&I professional, but the work of ALL. We have a terrific team of dedicated people working to drive inclusion and diversity and are making progress.
I am also proud of external recognition that Prudential has received for its diversity and inclusion efforts. While it is evidence of our commitment and progress, it is not why we do it. We do it to attract, hire and retain the best talent and to create a fair and inclusive work environment.
5. What drew you to want to serve on the board of the National Organization on Disability?
As a leader and change agent, it was a chance to advocate for those in need. Being on the board is an opportunity to lend my knowledge, skills and experience to help create awareness and more opportunities in terms of recruiting, retaining and providing an inclusive work environment for people with disabilities.
As a person with a disability, and the mom of a son with a disability, it is personally meaningful for me to support this community.