On this week’s episode of Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, co-hosts Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt talk about the leadership lessons served up at the 2022 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. The duo highlights some of what was discussed during sessions with Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Pivotal Ventures; Lisa Su, CEO of AMD; Thasunda Brown Duckett, president and CEO of TIAA; and Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks.
Listen to the episode or read the full transcript below.
Alan Murray: Leadership Next is powered by the folks at Deloitte, who, like me, are super focused on how CEOs can lead in the context of disruption and evolving societal expectations. Welcome to Leadership Next, the podcast about the changing rules of business leadership.
Melinda Gates: So, what I would say to all of you collectively, is wherever you sit inside a corporation, if you’re a policy maker, if you’re a mom who works: Empower people around you. Use your resources. Use your voice. Vote for the right people who you think should be at the top. Get others to vote. Bring young women along with you. Any of us that have platforms, we need to open them to other leaders, global leaders, female leaders, young women coming up behind us. This is not a one generation, and it’s going to solve this problem. It’s going to take all of us to move forward in the world.
Ellen McGirt: Now, if that call to action doesn’t make you excited to keep listening to this episode, I don’t know what will.
Murray: I could not agree more. I want to welcome everyone to Leadership Next podcast about the changing rules of business leadership. I’m Alan Murray, and I’m here with the great Ellen McGirt.
McGirt: Thank you, Alan. And of course, that first voice we heard was the great Melinda [French] Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Pivotal Ventures.
Murray: Yeah, she was on stage recently at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, California. I was in the audience. I was the guy. And I think we were all hanging on every word at this point.
McGirt: I bet you were. We were watching on the livestream, because I was representing us at another conference. But for anybody who doesn’t know, our MPW Summit is really the celebratory end game of all of the most powerful women in business reporting we do, including an annual list, which is really a powerful thing to work on. And of course, daily coverage and our amazing Broadsheet newsletter.
Murray: Yeah, the women who attend spend a lot of time networking, happy to see each other again. But they were all in the room when Melinda Gates was speaking and very energized by what she had to say, and that’s why we thought it would be worth sharing with our listeners here on Leadership Next.
McGirt: Exactly. Why just let this quality and candor go to waste? And for good measure, we’re going to share snippets of some of the other women who really resonated with us on stage too. But first, let’s hear more from Melinda Gates. She spoke with our colleague and Michal Lev-Ram, who is Fortune’s editorial director of live media.
Michal Lev-Ram: I think, obviously, everybody’s very familiar with the Gates Foundation. You also, you founded it and Pivotal Ventures, which is really focused on the U.S. and advancing women and people of color here. Last time you were here, in 2014, you were talking to us about family planning summit in London. You’d raised billions of dollars for contraceptives for distribution in the developing world. And fast forward to today, and where we’re sitting here, this summer, we saw the constitutional right to abortion being struck down by the Supreme Court. There’s fear that contraceptives are in risk in certain states and that there’s going to be more restrictions there. So given everything that you know, globally, that you’ve seen about the correlation of reproductive rights to sort of the broader advancement of women, what do you see ahead here? What are we what are we in for?
French Gates: So I think we, will let me just talk, stand back for a minute and talk, writ large. We have so long as a development community, which I’ve been part of for over 20 years through the Gates Foundation, we so a lot for long talked about empowering women. And I think we just need to stop and say no, no, no. We have to make sure women have their full power in society. What do I mean by that? I mean that, in their homes and communities, and at the very top levels of society, that women can control resources, and make decisions and shape policies and perspectives. I am convinced that Roe v. Wade would not have been rolled back, a law for women’s health on the books for almost 50 years.
I was in Rwanda, frankly, when that got announced, and people in Rwanda were just shocked. Like, how can the U.S. roll something like that back? Had the Supreme Court been put there by women, I don’t think that decision would have would have happened. And so, you know, we keep talking in Congress about oh, isn’t it great we get another 1% or 2% of our congressional leaders are women. Well, it’s good. But until we get to 50% being women. We don’t have a single woman in the Senate who’s Black, not a single woman. And yet, I look out in society, and there are a lot of amazing Black women. So we can’t accept that anymore. We have to make sure women get into seats of power and take their power. And so that is what I’m committing my life to do, both through the foundation globally and Pivotal Ventures in the United States.
Lev-Ram: I love this concept, not just putting women on the agenda, but women making the agenda. Is that politics, political, or just across the board? How do you just explain that to us? What does that mean?
French Gates: So, I grew up in a household where my mom always said to me and my sister as young girls, set your own agenda or somebody else will. And I see it as in politics, because that’s where our public policy gets made. I think women need to be equal across the top. I think in media, because that’s who tells our stories and shapes our perspective. Look at the difference since Shonda Rhimes has been writing for television, or Ava DuVernay with the movies she’s making. I think finance, because money is power. And so you need to have women at the top of financial institutions. I know Thasunda [Duckett] is going to speak later. And I think you need to have women at the top in computer science, because I look at what’s happening, you know, my background is computer science and economics, but I look at the bias being baked into artificial intelligence and I think oh my gosh, this is just like the U.S. Constitution. Look what happened. Women and minorities weren’t represented there. And we’re still fighting now to have true equality. You can’t have the tech sector, which is so prevalent in our lives, run by essentially a small group of white men.
Lev-Ram: I want to ask you, also you’re such an optimist. And yet you’ve seen and talked to so many people who are in such hard positions and you see this, you know, rollback of rights in this country. What is it that gives you that sense of optimism and hope as you do your work? And have you always been an optimist?
French Gates: I think I’ve probably always been an optimist. I believe in human beings. We are the ones that change the world, and I believe in human ingenuity. And so I think when we talk about the real things going on in society: unpaid labor, you know, we expect women to care for children de facto, right? And usually for the elderly. That’s over 50 million caregivers in our country. And yet we don’t create the right policies so they can have affordable quality childcare so they can care for the children and have a job. What I see though, is more people talking out about it. We got this close to a paid family medical leave law in our country at the federal level.
Those partners aren’t going away. I’m not going away. We’re going keep fighting that. It was one white man that didn’t get that passed. So I’ve just seen a cadre now of women and like-minded men saying this shouldn’t be. Society’s going to be better off. The last thing I’ll say just about this specifically is, you know, again, so often the women’s issue is the nice-to-do issue. The side issue, the backburner issue. I hear this essentially from prime ministers and presidents when I go places like the U.N. or I meet with them. But you know, let’s talk economics, we care about economics. If women had the same lifetime earnings as men around the world, we’d add $170 trillion to the global GDP. So it also just makes economic sense. And so I think it takes all of us to talk about all the factors and then push them forward.
And I see women, like in this room, who are in positions of power changing things inside of their companies. And I see men, like-minded men, saying, Look, I know great female scientists. Let’s make sure that we keep the resumé pool open till we get more female scientists on the list, not just white male scientists before we hire. I see society changing, and we just need to keep pushing, because it is humans and human ingenuity that changes society.
Murray: I really liked the fact that she ended on such an optimistic note. I mean, this has moved too slowly. During the pandemic, it moved backwards, but she is fundamentally an optimistic person, and she’s using her own time and energy and money to try and push it forward.
McGirt: Just modeling that optimistic view is so powerful, particularly if you feel like you’re in the thick of the work, whatever that is for you. And one thing I’ve always really, really liked about the MPW Summit is the diversity of conversations that happen there and the kinds of work that people are doing. Melinda [French] Gates clearly has a lot of influence on the world stage, and it’s using her power to advocate for women, but then stay in the audience long enough and you’re going to hear from a CEO who also has a lot of power and influence but in a completely different sphere. I’m thinking specifically about a conversation you, Alan the man, had with Lisa Su, the head of AMD.
Murray: Yeah, they did let me on the stage for a brief period. And I was really happy to do this interview, because Lisa Su is the CEO of AMD, the semiconductor company. And you know, Ellen, we’ve talked about this before. Semiconductors have become what oil used to be, and is again, mired in geopolitics, and so much at the core of much of what’s going on in the world right now, which is why the U.S. is spending tens of billions of dollars to build semiconductor capacity in the U.S., and everybody is sort of wringing their hands over what’s going to happen in Taiwan. Lisa Su, by the way, was born in Taiwan, so I was really interested in hearing what she had to say about this geopoliticization or even weaponization of semiconductors.
McGirt: That’s exactly right. Let’s listen.
Lisa Su: You know, it’s been an amazing ride. I have to say, I think the most important thing that you know I keep in front of me is the fact that we work in an industry where it really changes people’s lives. It really makes everything better. It really allows you to do things you can’t do. And that’s, you know, the role of semiconductors and yes, it’s a little bit ups and downs. I think the pandemic really, you know, kind of highlighted how important semiconductors are and everything that we do. And, you know, as an industry, we’ve worked hard to make sure that we have enough and now we may have a few too many. But overall, I think it’s just a wonderful ride.
Murray: But looking to the future. I mean, last year, your stock price was what? $155. Now it’s $55. Which is right? What’s your sense of where this market is going over the next five years?
Su: My sense is probably neither is right. We can say that, over the long term, everybody needs more technology. I think, no matter what you’re doing, whether it’s for your business or whether it’s for, you know, in your personal life, or whether it’s to, you know, solve the next big health care crisis, or to solve climate change, you need more technology, and that’s what we do. So from that standpoint, I feel wonderful about the long term. And you know, in the in the medium term, there’s always things that we have to navigate, and I think that’s part of your life as a CEO these days is a little bit different because you wake up on any given day and you wonder, okay, what am I going to do today?
McGirt: Okay, I love that. What am I going to do today? That is very Leadership Next-y of her.
Murray: And perfect for this podcast. And then later on, she talked about the amazing growth of the company that she is running, saying that it has grown so fast and changed so much that it is “like running a different company every two years.” You know, Ellen, one of the things about the conversation with Lisa Sue was the audience was so engaged. Here’s another really interesting question that came from the audience.
Audience member: Hi, Kim Storen. I actually used to run global brand for you, Lisa. And so I’m kind of curious, back then, which was a few years ago, part of the culture at AMD was this focus on being the underdog, and that really lit the fire under us to be better, to think differently and, you know, really led the transformation that you drove. So I’m kind of curious now that, I guess, is that underdog mentality, what’s that culture shift been? And and how have you seen that transform the overall organization now versus the beginning of the transformation?
Su: Yeah, it’s great to see you, Kim. So thank you for that. You know, it is true. It is about cultural transformation. We did spend a lot of time thinking that hey, we are the underdog and you know, frankly, being the underdog can be very helpful at times because you don’t have that many resources, but you have incredible heart in going forward. And I think today it’s much more about we’re a leader and we have to kind of chart our path over the next five years, but it’s a different path than everybody else in the in the industry. But I think the most important thing is that we do it our way. And so, you know, we just went through because we you know, we just acquired a very large company, Xilinx, last year. We started, you know, a whole new cultural transformation for the next five years of AMD. And our brand moniker is “together we advance,” with the idea that we advance not just by ourselves, but with our partners and with the entire ecosystem. So absolutely. There’s there’s a lot of transformation there as well.
Murray: And are you having fun in the process?
Su: I’m having a blast in the process.
Murray: That’s great. Well, thank you so much for being with us on the MPW stage.
Murray: I’m here with Joe Ucuzoglu, the CEO of Deloitte US and the sponsor of this podcast for all three of its seasons. Thank you for that, Joe.
Joe Ucuzoglu: Thanks, Alan. Pleasure to be here.
Murray: Joe, recent CEO transitions point to the stark lack of Black leadership at Fortune 500 companies and a broader leadership problem at those companies, which affects the pipeline to the top. How are organizations tackling that?
Ucuzoglu: Alan, we’re seeing an intense focus across our client base, and this has moved well beyond the supportive statements that most companies made. There’s a recognition that that was the easy part. The real work is making certain that there’s a sustainment of intensity past the headline to actually address the underlying systemic barriers to get behind the root causes. To make the changes in core business processes around how we’re sourcing talent more inclusively, how we’re driving equity into assignments into promotions, to remove the systemic barriers that have historically existed. And I am seeing real change across corporate America.
Murray: This is not a new problem, obviously. But you think there’s a new seriousness in attacking it?
Ucuzoglu: Well, I think it goes beyond seriousness to alignment of interests and a recognition amongst business leaders that this is core to the strategy. That those companies that do this well will be more successful in their markets and will be a more attractive destination for talent.
Murray: Thank you, Joe.
Ucuzoglu: Alan, pleasure to be here.
McGirt: Somebody else I was really happy to see on the most powerful women’s stage was Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of TIAA. She’s incredible. She’s been in that role for just…
Murray: She is a powerhouse. A dynamo. She lit up that room like a fire.
McGirt: I know, I know. I interviewed her for the first time couple of years ago, long before the pandemic, when she was in her previous job, and so, I’m so happy to see that she has ascended to a very senior C-suite role. She’s one of only two Black women currently running a Fortune 500 company, you know. She followed in the footsteps of another friend here of Leadership Next, Roger Ferguson, who was an amazing guest. And it was clear from the way she spoke on stage that she was bringing her own leadership and inclusion philosophy to the role. She spoke with Fortune senior writer Maria Aspan and yes, she lit up the room.
Maria Aspan: Thasunda, thank you so much for joining us again. We are so fortunate to have you back on our stage a year after you started and joined us last year. Now that you’ve been CEO of TIAA for a little more than a year, how do you feel about it looking back at your first year in the job, what stands out?
Thasunda Brown Duckett: Well, it’s so great to be here, and I love the title of our session, “Challenge Accepted.” When I think about the last 18 months, you know, I like to say I’m jealous of me. And I’m jealous of me because I get to surround myself with incredible people. I’m jealous of me because, over the last 18 months, I get to get really clear on who we are and what we’re here to do. You know, we exist to secure retirement for millions of Americans. And when you think about the problem that still has to be solved, that 40% of Americans will run out of money in retirement, especially when you think about the economy, which I know we’ll get to, I’m jealous of me because I get to be at the table. I get to make impact. And when I think about the headwinds, I feel like challenge is accepted because if not me, then who? And the opportunity to drive this company forward on a transformational agenda, the opportunity to make a positive impact, this aligns with who I am. And I would say the most important thing is, I get to earn the right to lead this organization, which means you have to win hearts and minds every single day in doing that, coming in, navigating a pandemic, navigating COVID, mental health etc., you have to get creative on, how are you going to win hearts and minds? And how are you going to make sure that you are building a culture that’s built to last through the highs and the lows?
Aspan: Love to dig into the economy, since there is so much going on and so much, again, has changed since a year ago. Bear market, rising inflation, rising interest rates. How worried are you and that we’re headed into a recession?
Brown Duckett: Yeah, I mean, when you think about it, clearly the Fed has been very clear. You know, inflation is at 8.3%. The Fed wants to get it down to 2%. So a recession is looking likely. Now the question is, how long? How hard? I don’t know. But I think the most important thing for me is to think about who we serve, to think about everyday Americans who are trying to figure out, you know, the rising cost. Everyone is looking at their statement, and it’s not looking that great. And you think about your parents that may be thinking about retiring, or you’re thinking about your parents that are in retirement, or you think about the young people who may have never seen a market this volatile. And so, what I want to stay focused on is what we can control. And what we can control is reaching out and talking to who we serve. What we can control is making sure that everyone has a plan, and that we don’t time the market, that we stay diversified. And what we can control, especially when I think about who we are at TIAA, is to make sure that everyone has access to guaranteed income. So that there is one aspect on your portfolio that is not in the red, which is what we’ve been doing for over 100 years. And so the market will be volatile, it will continue to be volatile, but I think we have to make sure that we’re doing all that we can and continue to lead from the front and stay connected with who we serve every day.
Aspan: You’ve talked a lot and alluded to just the racial and gender wealth gaps. How can those of us in this room work to close those gaps at a time when women are still recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic and the economy is again getting worse?
Brown Duckett: No, absolutely I mean, we know that we have to retire inequality, right ladies? Like, we have to do it. Period. I think, for us, I call it, you know, what can we do? We know that women retire with 30% less than men. We know that we have a savings gap. We know that we have an income gap. We have a guarantee gap. But what can we do? Well, here’s just a few simple things. You know, one, we can make sure that we’re looking at our policies at work and making sure that we’re addressing any equity inadequacies, and that we’re always running the numbers, and we’re always running the report, and then being okay making the changes when you see a discrepancy. We can make sure that our benefits are working, and not just to say, oh, we have great benefits, but, are people taking advantage of them? What is the goal of the benefit? Are people on track? Do we not just say that we have financial education, we have a great 401k plan. The real question is, what are the outcomes that these benefits are yielding for our people? And how do we disaggregate the data to say, are women taking advantage of it at the same pace as men? Are Blacks and Latinos taking advantage at the same pace as white Americans? Are we really asking the harder questions? And then are we willing to do the work? And so I do think that there’s more that we can do
And then also policy. You know, what can we do as a matter of policy? To say, how do we make sure that, when we think about women that are still the primary caregiver, that the benefits are working for them? That when they had to exit the workforce during COVID, and maybe could not contribute to their 401k plan or 403b plan, they lost compounding interest for two years—how do we make sure that they can catch up? And so I think the question for all of us is to just make sure that we’re being intentional and that we’re not just checking the box, we’re saying, is the box working for everyone? And so, I do think we have to remain optimistic. I do think we have to ask the harder questions. But I do think that we can do more work. We can retire inequality, but it’s going to take us to operate with a different level of urgency. And I would also think we have to realize, it can’t just be the sisterhood. We have to bring the men to the table. When you look at 44 women are running a Fortune 500, you can say yeah, there’s progress, factually. But 44, that’s like 9%. We are not going to close the inequality gap. We’re not going to close the gender gap, if we don’t make sure that we bring our allies, our advocates to the table, and to make sure that we believe it’s a problem that we all must solve, not just the group that may not be at the table or at the level that we want. So, it’s not just women’s problem to solve the women gap. It’s not just minorities’ problem to solve the minority gap. We need all of us to join the table. And I think that if we can get our allies and our advocates to the table at a much accelerated pace, we can make accelerated progress.
Aspan: On a personal level, you are of course one of two Black women running a Fortune 500 company. And we heard last night from Roz Brewer of Walgreens about how that sometimes makes her feel. Yeah. How do you think about it these days?
Brown Duckett: Yeah, I mean, I’m on the shoulders of giants. You know, and I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I recognize that it was the cooks and the janitors and the secretaries that introduced my gender and my melanin to corporate America. You know, I understand that talent is created equally, opportunity is not. And I understand that it’s not sufficient that it’s just me and Roz. Not sufficient.
And so for me, my hope and my goal is to make sure that whenever I am in a room, that I look to see who’s in the room, but most importantly, who’s not. And I’m asking the question. I understand that in my role, too much is given, much is required. And though it shouldn’t be my burden, but carrying a burden is not new to me, to women, to the culture. And so for me, and I know similarly to Roz, we’re operating with a sense of urgency. You know, my hope is that people can see me and say, You know what, I can create a new chapter on what a CEO can look like, how a CEO can move and operate, and maybe that if people can see me, that there’s another young girl that can say, I can be her, today.
I also think that we have to make sure that it’s not just the young girls that can see themselves. We have to make sure that we’re having the conversation at the board level. We have to make sure that as CEOs, that we’re looking at succession pipeline, not just to say we have X percent of women, but where are the women? And are they on a path to be in the C-suite? And if not, what is getting in the way? What is getting in the way? And then how do we do our part?
And so for me, there’s a lot more work to be done, but two Black women cannot do it alone. We need the sisterhood. We need man. We need all of us. And clearly, we have to all agree that 44 women does not represent the talent of women that can lead companies. Clearly two Black women does not represent the full talent of women that can run a Fortune 500. So I do think that there’s more work that we can do, but I’m up for the challenge, and the challenge is accepted and the assignment is clear.
Aspan: A year from now, what do you want to be talking about on the stage?
Brown Duckett: Progress. Period. A year from now, I want to talk about how we made progress in closing this retirement gap. A year from now, I want to talk about the momentum at TIAA, and hopefully so many other companies, and what we’re doing with intentionality to make sure that people can retire with dignity. A year from now, I hope it’s not just 44 women running a Fortune 500. A year from now, I hope you all will come up to me and say, I did one do better. I did one do better. I decided to do better. I decided to engage with an ally, to be an advocate for someone. I decided to look in my office and say, Who’s that brown girl or that Black gir,l where there may not be another brown girl that she can see, but I’m going to stand in the gap. What is our do better? And so, a year from now, the market may still be volatile, a year from now, there could still be a lot of headwinds, but a year from now, we can still decide to make progress all the same. And that’s what I hope to see a year from now.
Murray: So Ellen, that’s a great example of what we talked about here on Leadership Next. Thasunda sees her role not just leading this big company, but as a role model for thousands, tens of thousands of women out there who may want to be in a position like the one she’s in.
McGirt: And she behaves that way. And she really lifts up. She takes every opportunity to to make that scale by giving advice and having interviews like this ,and she also thinks about the financial well-being of individuals in society. I mean, it’s purpose-driven on every level. We need to have her on Leadership Next sometime soon.
Murray: Let’s do it. Okay, I think we have time to share one more conversation from the MPW stage, and the last woman that we’re going to highlight is not necessarily a bold-faced name, like Melinda [French] Gates, and she is not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. But everybody who heard her was really blown away by what she had to say. She’s Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks.
McGirt: I can’t believe this, Alan, we’re living parallel lives. She literally got up from the stage and then flew across the country. I was at the Great Place to Work conference, and I got to talk to her the next day. That is how serious she is about spreading the message of leadership. She was equally dazzling there. And when you think about her life, she spent over 30 years climbing the corporate ladder at AT&T and her final role. She was VP of human resources and chief diversity officer. Then she started her own consulting firm, and she recovered from cancer. And what we’re about to hear Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, called. The team was in a lot of trouble following allegations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct. Here is Cynt, speaking, once again, with Maria Aspan, and breaking down what had to happen next.
Cynt Marshall: Well, first of all, when Mark Cuban called me—okay, don’t judge me, I didn’t know Mark Cuban. I didn’t know him. And so I had started my own consulting company. I was on the phone with one of my clients. And my phone kept going off, my other cell phone, and I have four kids. And so, two of them are in college. I actually thought it was one of my kids texting me for money. And so, I’m a busy woman, so I’m like, don’t try to call me, just text me what you need. We’ll just square it up later. So I gave my husband the phone. And I said “one of the kids need money, take care of it.” And he came back and said, “this dude doesn’t need any money.”
He said, “Mark Cuban is trying to reach you.” I said, “Who is that?” I didn’t know Mark Cuban, right? So he started telling me about Shark Tank. I’d never seen Shark Tank, but he’s trying to tell me all this and he said, “just hang up the phone and call the man back.” And so, when I talked to Mark, he told me about a Sports Illustrated article that just came out, and all about sexual harassment. He wants to see me at two o’clock. And my husband at this point is already looking at the Mavs colors. He’s getting dressed. He’s like, what? And so, I told him, I said he wanted to see me at two o’clock. I said, “I can’t come and see you. I have a mammogram at two o’clock.” He said, “Well you want me to meet you out there?” I said “I don’t need you to come to the mammogram.” I said, “I’ll try to get to you by four o’clock.” So by the time I got back, my husband was all dressed in Mavs colors and all that.
And so, by the time we got to Mark and by the time I got there, Maria, I had decided I wasn’t going to do it. I said, I am not going to work in this culture. What woman in her right mind wants to work here? I said, I already have a brand. I spent 36 years building this brand. I kind of don’t want to be associated with this. I’m not going to do it. My husband’s like, just talk to him.
So we walk in. I spent an hour with Mark, 55 minutes, and on my way out, and he was very honest about what was going on. Everything that was happening. It was horrific. And so, on my way out of his office, two women stopped me and they said, “are you the person who Mark Cuban said is going to come and save us?” And I said, “no, I can’t come and save you.” And they said, “no, we need you.” And they started telling me their stories. And the more these women talked to me, the more I thought about a blog that I had posted that morning called “Impact,” and it was about what impact was I going to have next in my life. And then one of them said the magic word, she said, we think you could really come and impact the situation. And then I thought about the work that I did at AT&T that landed us on Fortune‘s 100 Best Places to Work list for the first time in the history of our company. I thought about that work that I had done a year prior. And I thought okay, maybe I am uniquely qualified to come and help out. Said I’d go home and pray about it. The next day I came in all these people for three hours have me in the conference room telling me their stories. And I thought you know what, I gotta do this for the sisterhood. Now the brotherhood will benefit but I got to do this for the sisterhood. These women deserve a great place to work. And so that’s why I said yes, because I wanted to give them a great place to work.
Aspan: And how did you do that? Four years later?
Marshall: Four years later. What I did, I came in and I laid out a vision that said we will set the global standard in the NBA for diversity, equity, and inclusion. I laid out a set of values [inaudible] character, respect, authenticity, fairness, teamwork, and safety, both physical and emotional safety. We put together—I laid out a 100-day plan that had four major parts: model zero tolerance. So put that whole infrastructure in place around compliance and all of that. A Mavs women’s agenda, an expressed agenda to educate, empower, and elevate women.
When I got to the Mavs, we had 10 white men running the Dallas Mavericks. So my first meeting there were 10 white men, and then they brought in two women who were not in leadership to try to fake me out so I would say, I would think they were at the table, but I knew better.
And so, I wanted an express agenda to lift women, and then all of our cultural transformation stuff, and then just basic operational effectiveness, just market based compensation, address gender pay equity and all of that. Within 90 days of laying out this vision, the values, the 100-day plan, I diversified my leadership team. Within 90 days we went from ten white men running the Dallas Mavericks to 50% women and 50% people of color and that’s throughout the entire organization. So we focused a lot on bringing women to the table, our workplace promises, every voice matters and everybody belongs. And I told them this promise and these values would operate in the halls not just on the walls. And so we laid out our plan we executed on it and we were bold about it. We were very intentional. I call it all-in leadership being intentional, inclusive, insightful and inspirational. And so that’s what we did. And at my age and my brand, I wasn’t afraid of it. I said we are going to put the sisters in charge and we’re going to handle our business and for the last two years we have won the NBA inclusion leadership award.
Aspan: Congratulations. Unfortunately, we still see some similar issues popping up at other organizations including in the NBA. How do we get to a point where that doesn’t happen anymore?
Marshall: Well, I think human behavior, is what it is. But I think we have to really practice zero tolerance. There are some things we can’t stop from happening, but we can definitely respond to it and send some very powerful messages. I know at the Mavs, we have values-based employment. You can’t work here if you don’t comport with our values. I think we also need to have more women at the table. There’s a lot more women at the table. And I think we have to be very intentional about who we hire and what kind of behavior we will tolerate because some of this stuff is not new. Some of these people have done this in the past. And so we have to be very intentional about who we hire, but especially about how we respond to it.
McGirt: Very, very powerful. This is an intentional leader who understands what zero tolerance actually means but has the systemic and leadership and compassion chops to bring everyone along. It’s just an extraordinary story.
Murray: Yeah, it was a great story. I gotta tell you, I love the MPW Summit. It’s my favorite event of the year not only because it’s such a inspirational group of women who attend, but also when it’s in California, as it was this year, we have this wonderful feast on the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean that has special dishes prepared by great female chefs. Eight of them, and so it’s a feast for the brain and also a feast for the stomach. It was wonderful.
Murray: Anyway, you can check out Cynt’s full interview on the Fortune YouTube page. And here’s a reminder that we haven’t given for a while: If you listen to this entire episode of Leadership Next, and you don’t subscribe to this podcast, you’re making a mistake. Do that now do it now.
McGirt: Yeah, do it now right now.
Murray: ]Well, we’ll just sit here, and Ellen and I will just sit here and wait till you do it and come back. And that way you’ll see it in your feed each Tuesday. Thank you for listening. Ellen and I will be back with a great new interview next week.
Murray: Leadership Next is edited by Nicole Vergalla, written by me, Alan Murray, along with my amazing colleagues, Ellen McGirt and Megan Arnold. Our theme is by Jason Snell. Executive producers are Mason Cohn and Megan Arnold. Leadership Next is a production of Fortune Media. Leadership Next episodes are produced by Fortune‘s editorial team.
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