Vice President, Global Professional Relations and Marketing, Colgate-Palmolive Co., New York City
In 1990 Marsha E. Butler faced a major decision: Should she continue her successful private dental practice or forge a career path in corporate America? Her pioneering spirit, nurtured in her native Kansas when she became one of the first African-American students to integrate an all-white junior high school in Wichita, kicked in immediately. “[The Wichita] experience helped me to understand the importance of diversity at a young age and to strive to be a leader even in adverse situations,” says Butler.
She joined the Colgate-Palmolive Co. in New York in 1990 as associate director of the Minority Oral Health Improve-ment Program, where she designed and implemented “Bright Smiles, Bright Futures,” an oral health education program geared to children in urban and rural areas around the world. Today, Butler is vice president for global professional relations and marketing at Colgate, and she has taken “Bright Smiles, Bright Futures” from a national grassroots program reaching 25,000 children in the United States to a global outreach initiative in 80 countries touching 50 million children annually.
“I am inspired and passionate about helping those who want to help themselves,” says Butler, who has authored studies about the oral health habits of young children and presented them worldwide.
She fulfills her commitment to “giving back” through involvement with her church’s health missions and foreign missions programs. A steadfast believer in the Danish proverb, “What you are is God’s gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God,” Butler also would like to establish a foundation that nurtures and supports the confidence and self-esteem of young girls in the United States and overseas, particularly in countries where girls are not as valued as boys.
“It is extremely important that we work with our girls to create young leaders who feel they can achieve what they want to pursue and balance that with what makes them happy in life,” she says.