Our Women to Watch series has shined a spotlight on groundbreaking female leaders in many industries. These female innovators have each made a unique and lasting impact worldwide. This month, we’re focusing on Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall who has helped lead a major basketball franchise to victory.
When Cynthia Marshall was hired as the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks in February 2018, she became the first female CEO in the National Basketball Association. Since then, she’s been recognized as one of Adweek’s 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports.
Cynthia Marshall’s Beginnings
Marshall was born in Birmingham, Alabama but moved to Richmond, California when she was three months old. Marshall’s life has been filled with several groundbreaking firsts. One of those came after seeing only white speakers at her sister’s graduation.
“I was in the ninth grade, and I looked at my mom and I said, ‘Can a Black girl be senior class president? Can a Black girl be student body president?’” said Marshall. “‘Of course. You can do whatever you want to do,’ she replied. And I said, ‘OK I gotta get one of my buddies because when we graduate, we’re going to do that.’ I found out that had never happened before.”
Marshall became the first African American president at her high school.
Marshall attended UC Berkeley on a scholarship where she studied business administration with a focus on organizational behavior and human resources. She became the first African American cheerleader at UC Berkeley and the only Black woman in the Delta Gamma sorority at the school.
After college, she worked at AT&T starting as an operator in San Francisco and worked her way up to president of AT&T in North Carolina and senior vice president of human resources, before becoming AT&T’s chief diversity officer. In 2017, Marshall’s team was recognized on Diversity Inc.’s Top 50 companies list and Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list.
Marshall also kept busy by founding Marshalling Resources, a consulting firm focused on leadership, diversity and inclusion, and culture transformation.
From AT&T to The Maverick’s
In 2018, following a 46-page report of a history of sexual harassment in the Dallas Mavericks, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered the CEO role to Marshall. She hit the ground running setting up a number of policies, establishing a complaint process, creating an ethics hotline, and launching an internal advisory council.
In 2020, The Mavericks were awarded the NBA Inclusion Leadership Award for their commitment to “inclusion as a key business strategy” under the guidance of Marshall.
“If nothing else, I am proud of the speak-up culture we have. Our people have a voice,” said Marshall. “The level doesn’t matter. I had a one-on-one with every single person in the organization when I got there.”
After Marshall’s initial 100-day “reset” within the organization, The Mavericks went on to reach many more corporate milestones, noting that 50 percent of their executives were women and 47 percent were people of color. But they’re not done growing and improving.
“While we will always have work to do, we are grateful that our progress has been recognized,” she added. “Our workplace promise is ‘every voice matters and everybody belongs.’ We’re on a daily mission to make good on that promise.”
More Women to Watch
Cynthia Marshall is driven to be a pioneer in diversity and inclusion. We are so excited for other firsts she’ll take.
In the meantime, read up on our other Women to Watch, such as poet Amanda Gorman and General Motors’ (GM) CEO Mary Barra.
Plus, check out Hope Smith — the devoted mother, wife, former model, and Founder and CEO of luxury skincare brand MUTHA™. Hope drives others to uplift and provide opportunities to women.