She’s the first African-American woman to lead an NBA team and says she better not be the last. Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, says the Mavericks organization has a new culture and has greatly diversified its top ranks.
Marshall recently traveled to New York to sit down with respected news journalist Poppy Harlow on CNN’s Boss Files with Poppy Harlow. The show explores the journeys of business and global leaders with in-depth interviews from entrepreneurs, CEOs and innovators about what it takes to rise to the top.
CNN Business also covered the story on Marshall’s rise to become CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. When she joined the organization, none of the employees on the executive leadership team were women or people of color. She increased the diversity within the leadership team by promoting from within and recruiting from outside of the organization. Today, 50% of the executive leadership team are women and 47% are people of color.
Marshall has been a trailblazer throughout her life. CNN Business writer Haley Draznin writes how Marshall grew up in low-income housing in Richmond, California, attended college on a full academic scholarship at the University of California, and became her university’s first African-American cheerleader.
She is also no stranger to navigating difficult situations. As a young girl, she was a victim of physical abuse and witnessed her father shoot another man in self-defense. She miscarried four times, lost her six-month-old daughter, adopted four children, and survived stage three colon cancer. Her faith, she says, has helped guide her and give her the strength to take on more challenges.
Before she retired from AT&T, the parent company of WarnerMedia which owns CNN, Marshall was senior vice president and chief diversity officer. Between her personal and professional experiences, she recognized that she was “uniquely qualified” to take on the role at the Mavericks.
“I have to do it for the sisterhood. I have to help create a great place to work,” she says.
Her peers — and her boss — acknowledge that. “She is driven, smart, compassionate and a realist,” Cuban wrote in an email to CNN. “But those don’t compare to her thirst to learn. She does whatever it takes.
“While Marshall continues to run the organization’s day-to-day operations, she often reminds Cuban: “You own it, I run it.”
“I had to tell him that again yesterday,” she adds.
But she recognizes she did not accomplish all of this on her own. “I own the fact that we have turned around the culture and I didn’t do it by myself. I brought some folks in with me. We promoted some people. We created a great diverse leadership team.”
Marshall hopes her work at the Mavericks will set the standard for inclusion and diversity in sports organizations.
“You don’t get results if you don’t take care of people. And so, that’s why I come to work every day. Literally that’s what gets me up in the morning,” she tells Harlow.
Meet the first African-American woman *ever* to be CEO of an NBA team (it’s about time!) The remarkable @cyntmarshall — the woman @mcuban hired to turn around the @dallasmavs post-crisis. We go deep in the latest @cnn #BossFiles — listen here:https://t.co/O5RVcNp58v pic.twitter.com/dFsT8W3edk
— Poppy Harlow (@PoppyHarlowCNN) September 30, 2019