In the 1970s, Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall was studying business administration and human resources management on a full scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley. She was full of focus and drive, and she knew that to get ahead, she needed to get rid of all distractions, including her boyfriend, Kenneth. So her first week in college, she broke up with him and told him that she’d call him in four years when she was done with her classes and they could continue their relationship.
Four years later, she called him, ready to resume their relationship. But he was now engaged. She said that was too bad because he was expected at a graduation party with her that night. Today, Cynt and Kenneth have been married 37 years.
The foundations of Cynt Marshall
From an early age, Cynt was taught that adversity was something that happened and it was something to be overcome, with help from others. She faced a lot of it from a young age, but credits her family, her community, her educators, and her church for always lifting her up when she faced struggles.
Her guiding principles today? Dream, focus, act, pray.
From AT&T to the Dallas Mavericks
With her degree in hand, Cynt started her career at AT&T, then Pacific Bell, on a fast track management program supervising operators. She went on to work for 36 years at AT&T, working 15 different jobs and four iterations of the industry, from a telephone company to a communications and entertainment company.
Cynt has retired and was doing consulting work when she first fielded the call from Mark Cuban. At the time, the Dallas Mavericks were not known as an organization that prioritized diversity and inclusion, and Mark had made a genuine commitment to change the organization, starting with hiring Cynt Marshall.
She started her first 90 days at the Dallas Mavs by sitting down with every member of the organization — every single one — and asking them about themselves. She asked their life stories, who they were, how they came to be at the organization, and where they saw themselves in five years. And these conversations helped to inform the changes she would implement at the organization.
“Pre-Marshall, 74 percent of the Mavericks’ business-side employees were white and 68 percent were men. Today, 40 percent of the overall workforce are people of color, and 43 percent are women.” – The Dallas News
Today, the Dallas Mavericks is a diverse organization.
How dancing is connected to diversity and inclusion
“Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”
To Cynt, it’s not just about making an organization more diverse, it’s about making it more inclusive. You could invite people of all backgrounds to work at an organization (“to dance”) and that would solve the issue of diversity, but it’s not just about dropping them in and continuing on. To make it more inclusive, you have to create an environment where they feel welcome and included, you have to not only invite them to dance, but also teach them the steps. It’s about meeting people where they are.
Which is how Marigold Engage+’s CEO Sameer Kazi, learned how to do the Cupid Shuffle.
You can hear all of Cynt’s insights and watch the dance in her session below.