Black Female Pioneer of Many Firsts Shares Her Foundation for Success 

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Author, You’ve Been Chosen (Ballentine, 2022)

CEO, Dallas Mavericks; former Senior VP of Human Resources & Chief Diversity Officer, AT&T

Forbes named her one of 15 most inspiring female leaders 

Married; four grown adopted kids. 


Cynt Marshall grew up with a Christian mother and an abusive father. The family walked on eggshells around him, never knowing what would set him off. When her mother finally decided she’d taken enough physical and emotional abuse, she decided to divorce him. During an altercation, he broke Cynt’s nose. 

Faith in God, church attendance, and education were top priorities instilled by her mother. Her mom’s upbeat and glass-half-full personality made an impression. Cynt also took her education very seriously. So much so that she refused to date while attending college. She was talking to a boy named Kenny but when she began college, she said, "I’ll call you when I graduate.” Perplexed, he wasn’t sure what to do. Four years later, she kept her word and called him and they eventually got married. 

Eager to start a family, they began trying to get pregnant. Unfortunately, Cynt miscarried four times during her second trimesters. Finally, she was able to carry her fifth baby to 21.5 weeks. Even though their little girl was premature, baby Karolyn (nicknamed Special K) fought hard for six months until she finally succumbed to a brain bleed. Kenny and Cynt were devastated but powered on and eventually adopted four children—two boys and two girls.


Known for breaking glass ceilings, Cynt experienced a lot of firsts. She was the first Black class president in her high school, one of the first Black cheerleaders at UC Berkley College, the first Black woman in many boardroom meetings, the first Black female VP for AT&T, and the first Black female CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. Her ability to connect with people, her strength, and her upbeat personality, contributed to her receiving several promotions with Pacific Bell which merged with Southwestern Bell and eventually became AT&T.

Yet, those promotions were not without obstacles to overcome along the way. Early in her career, Cynt was told by a boss to take out her braids and to stop wearing brightly colored shoes. 19 years later, when her boss called to congratulate her on becoming an officer for AT&T (there were only 110 officers in a company of 250,000 employees), Cynt could tell her boss wasn’t happy. She told Cynt, “Of course, you’ll need to cut your hair.” Then, she gave Cynt the name of a clothing brand that she should buy. She told her to wear white clothing because it would complement her skin color. Her boss continued, “You shouldn’t be Cynt anymore. You’ll need to be Cynthia or Cindy.” She also told her to quiet down and not be so joyful and not to use the word blessed. Cynt should start saying lucky instead. Cynt turned down the promotion. She was not going to change who God created her to be. Her boss agreed that Cynt wasn’t right for the job. 

At peace, Cynt went about her business. This wasn’t anything new to her. She had turned down four promotions during her career because at some level there was a conflict between who she was as a person and what they were asking her to be. But not long after that initial phone call, her phone rang again. This time it was her bosses boss, the CEO Ed Whitacre. He began, “I just heard what happened. Let’s start this conversation again… We selected you to be an officer just the way you are now, Cynt. You’re the person who is getting everything done. I don’t want to change a thing. So let’s start over.” Cynt took the promotion. 

After 36 years at AT&T, Cynt was ready to retire and do what she wanted when she got another call about another office that needed her. She prayed about it and felt her time in Dallas wasn’t finished. Not long after, she received a message from Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur and majority owner of the Dallas Mavericks. It was 2018 and the Dallas Mavericks were in full-fledged crisis over sexual misconduct allegations. It was all over the news. Their front office culture was a mess and Cynt had just the experience and skills to make a difference.

As per usual, she told Mark she needed to pray about it and she did. Cynt accepted the position and started the process of turning things around. One of the first things she did was to ask to see the employee pay scales. She wanted to make sure there was equal pay for equal work. She then began to create a diverse work environment. Values like character, respect, authenticity, fairness, teamwork and safety became the top priority. And Cynt’s faith in God has always been part of who she is. She refuses to hide it. 


After being diagnosed with stage three colon cancer (one lymph node away from stage 4) on December 30th, 2010, Cynt was facing death if she didn’t accept aggressive chemo treatment. She received 12 rounds of chemo and learned the importance of allowing others to help her. It was a hard lesson to learn for such an independent “can-do” woman. Yet, God showed her how to trust in Him and allow others to help during the process. She’s been cancer free since July 21, 2011. 


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