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Building a Career that Centers Equity: Neela Pal

Neela Pal
Neela Pal, MBA '13

Neela Pal (SOM MBA ’13), Vice President and Head of Client and External Engagement Strategy, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Goldman Sachs, joined us for the last Social Impact Lab of the semester to discuss her journey from the non-profit sector to roles of impact in the corporate world.

Neela came to SOM as a “non-profit purist,” convinced she would spend her career in that space. Following SOM, she advised non-profit executive teams on building financially resilient organizations with BDO-FMA, before facing an inflection point in her personal and professional life five years after graduation. She made the decision to take three months off from work to reconsider her assumptions around her career trajectory—a pause that eventually led her to a role in philanthropy with Goldman Sachs.

This career pivot was premised on Neela’s belief that with the resources available to her in the private sector, she could move the needle on social impact issues from within the financial system, as an agent of change. However, the initial transition to a global financial institution from the non-profit sector tested Neela’s confidence and faith in herself. When she learned to see her difference as an asset and lean intentionally into her strengths, Neela said, “things started to change.”

Throughout her time at Goldman, the bank’s initiatives focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have expanded significantly. As one example, Goldman Sachs made a historic $25 million philanthropic investment over five years to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Neela also spoke of the importance of partnering with the various businesses within the firm to share DEI insights with clients, and of building trust with stakeholders of underrepresented groups who have not typically been included in the financial sector. Yale SOM’s Interpersonal Dynamics course shaped a lot of how Neela approaches fostering trust-filled, genuine relationships.

When asked where she sees herself going next, she said that personal reflection and intentionally designing her future remain a part of her regular thought process. Neela’s path from the non-profit sector to a corporate role shows the myriad ways that we can have social impact as future leaders in business and society.