RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – People who know Cynthia Marshall, a former head of AT&T operations in North Carolina and former Cary resident, are smiling as they watch her clean up the cesspool of sexual bias that could have cost tech billionaire Mark Cuban his NBA Dallas Mavericks franchise.

By instituting a policy of diversity in hiring, increasing the ratio of female executives, enforcing workplace training while doing such things as making cheerleader uniforms much more modest, “Cynt” as she likes to be called is setting an example for businesses to implement.

In this era of #metoo, Marshall has stepped forward as an executive who is determined to make a difference in how women are treated. Minorities, too.

She deserves a medal of freedom.

Marshall made headlines and drew praise on Wednesday as the NBA disclosed the ending of its investigation into sexual abuse within the Mavs organization. Cuban is donating $10 million to a variety of women’s advocacy groups. While apologizing for what had happened, Cuban escaped punishment in an era where sports franchise owners run the risk of being told to sell their franchises if conduct is found harmful to a league.

One need only to read her LinkedIn profile to gain clear understanding of what she is all about as an executive:

WRAL TechWire photo

Cynthia Marshall during her tenure as head of AT&T in North Carolina, (Photo by Rick Smith)

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” My goal is to continue to promote teamwork, Diversity and Inclusion, employee engagement, GPTW [Great Place to Work] nine high trust behaviors, workforce transformation and the value of effective public private partnerships and good public policy. Leadership matters! Character matters! Every voice matters! People matter!

Give credit to Cuban, who has denied knowing anything about sexual abuse problems within the Mavericks franchise, for choosing to hire Marshall as the Mavs’ CEO shortly after news of the sex scandal erupted in the pages of a bombshell Sports Illustrated report in February. Marshall had recently retired from her post as head of HR for AT&T (she left the North Carolina after six years for that new job in December 2012), and Cuban brought her in to clean house.

The Mavs mission

Since then, Cynt has been on a mission to instill a climate of equality, respect and opportunity for all – efforts that drew praise from both NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and one of the women who had exposed the Mavs’ dirt to SI. A report based on an independent investigation of the Mavs made numerous recommendations for improvements and changes at the franchise but noted that Marshall had already implemented many.

Marshall hit the ground running when given a mandate by Cuban to make changes. The Dallas Morning News has documented several that Marshall put in place:

  • She hired a woman as senior vice president of human resources.
  • She added another woman in a new position: chief ethics and compliance officer.
  • Over the past several months, she has increased the ratio of female management in the Mavericks organization to 47 percent from ZERO.
  • Cynt mandated respect-in-the-workplace training.
  • A “zero tolerance” office culture is enforced.
  • And she has put in place a “Mavs Women’s Playbook,” which she says “uplifts, develops, promotes and encourages Dallas Mavericks women.”

Marshall apologized to women who had been caught up in the Macs’ scandal and also thanked them for having the courage to come forward.

“They’ve made us better,” Marshall said at the press conference Wednesday. “And our desire is for them to be better, too.”

The Skinny has known Cynt for many years, and her success comes as no surprise. Let’s hope many others embrace what she is doing with the Mavs.

By following Cynt’s example, all business executives can take steps toward providing a workplace that is safe and offers equality of opportunity.

Note: For an in-depth look at the Mavs’ mess and Marshall’s role in addressing it, see The Dallas Morning News’ exhaustive coverage.