In February 2018, Cynthia Marshall became the first Black female CEO in the history of the National Basketball Association. As someone with a reputation for breaking boundaries, Marshall made a career out of exceeding the expectations of people around her. Prior to the NBA, Marshall spent 36 years at telecom giant AT&T. During her tenure there, Marshall worked her way up the corporate ladder until she ultimately served as SVP-Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer, meaning that she was responsible for identifying and developing leaders, aligning employees with the company’s vision and priorities, and overseeing major business unit HR support. Notably, as president of AT&T's bureau in North Carolina, Marshall became the first Black chair of the state’s chamber of commerce. In addition to her NBA and AT&T positions, Marshall is also the founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of the consulting firm Marshalling Resources, which specializes in leadership, diversity and inclusion, culture transformation, and overall optimization of people resources. Marshall is also involved with many nonprofit boards such as Texas Women’s Foundation and Dallas Regional Chamber. Over her career, she has received many honors and awards, one being a spot on Adweek’s list of 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports.
Marshall's proclivity for trailblazing can be traced back to her days at the University of California, Berkeley. A gifted student, Marshall received five scholarship offers and ultimately settled on Berkeley both because of its proximity to home and opportunities. Once enrolled, she wasted no time in making a name for herself. During her freshman year, she tried out for the University's cheerleading program. Although she didn't make the squad that year, she returned to tryouts her sophomore year and made the team, becoming the first Black cheerleader in the history of the Bears’ cheerleading program. At Berkeley, she was also the first Black member of her sorority, Delta Gamma. Academically, Marshall was just as successful. After originally aiming to become a math teacher, she switched her major to business administration and human resources. In 1982, at the age of 21, she graduated from Berkeley with a degree in business administration.
In 2018, Marshall was the focus of a large profile piece in California Magazine, a high-circulation magazine published by the Cal Alumni Association. Titled, 'Always a Maverick: Cynthia Marshall Made Her Mark Before Dallas,' the article was written shortly after Marshall's history-making appointment in the NBA. At the time, Marshall was back at Berkeley for her great-niece’s graduation, and took a moment to discuss how much of her professional success is related to the things she learned as a college student at Berkeley. To future Berkeley graduates she advised, "Soak up the whole experience, you can stand on for the rest of your life.”