The Black Woman Who Turned Around the Dallas Mavericks' Notorious Toxic Culture - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall changed the toxic culture lingering around the NBA team in less than two years after being named to that position, according to CNN.

Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank personality Mark Cuban lured Marshall out of retirement to change the work environment after Sports Illustrated exposed a “corrosive workplace culture” at the organization. A number of instances of sexual harassment over more than 20 years were unearthed after an independent investigation launched by the Mavericks was publicly released.

“I walked into a bad culture,” says Marshall. “I walked into a place where the women were not valued and treated the way I would like to see them treated. Frankly, I think we had a problem with how we respected and treated people of color. It wasn’t a very diverse and inclusive environment when I got there. And so we needed to do some things.” 

Prior to becoming the NBA’s first black woman CEO, the highly respected leader was senior vice president of Human Resources and the chief diversity officer at AT&T before she retired in 2017 to launch her own consulting firm. She was also the first African American cheerleader at UC Berkeley. In 2015, she was named as one of the Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Corporate America by BLACK ENTERPRISE

“We are committed to running a business of excellence,” Marshall told BE in an exclusive interview shortly after joining the Mavericks. “Clearly we have work to do, and I walk in knowing that there’s a lot that I don’t know. But I do know how to lead, and how to effect necessary change in an organization.” 

When Marshall was named CEO, there were no employees on the executive leadership team who were women or people of color. Under her leadership, she increased diversity 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. 

“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.” 

Marshall hopes her work with the Mavericks will set the standard for inclusion and diversity in all 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 told CNN.