NMHC Diversity Committee Chairwoman Julie Smith (right) listens as Michele Meyer-Shipp, vice president and chief diversity officer with Prudential Financial, explains how the insurance giant got started with a strategic diversity and inclusion program.

As this blog post from NMHC President Doug Bibby outlined, NMHC has launched a diversity initiative that aims to bring the topics of diversity and inclusion to the forefront of multifamily business strategy. To that end, the 2016 NMHC Annual Meeting program included a session on getting started with a diversity program, hosted by Diversity Committee Chairwoman Julie Smith, chief administrative officer for The Bozzuto Group, and featuring Michele Meyer-Shipp, vice president and chief diversity officer with Prudential Financial.

Meyer-Shipp discussed the beginnings of a formal diversity and inclusion program at Prudential. While the company began down this path more than a decade ago, she said admittedly there were some fits and starts. For example, the company got better at recruiting more diverse candidates, but then found that because there was little focus on what happened once they were part of the organization, their attrition rate was uncomfortably high.

Company leadership then began to look to tie diversity and inclusion to core businesses and business processes, challenging business unit leaders to be accountable for reaching company goals.

“This is a contact sport,” said Meyer-Shipp. “And every one at every level of the organization needs to be on the field.”

However, Meyer-Shipp said the efforts kicked into high gear when the company bought a big outfit in Japan, such that today 50 percent of the company’s workforce is in Japan. But, at the time, company leaders realized most knew little to nothing about Japanese culture.


Since then, the company has focused on a three-pillar strategy that looks at people, market and community. By doing so, the company has been able to capitalize on its diversity, looking to its own people for consumer insights and new business development ideas.

“We’re an insurance company,” said Meyer-Shipp. “We are in the business of providing goods and services to people. If that population is changing, why were we looking mostly at household incomes led primarily by white men making over $250,000?”