Remembering Monica Boll and why it is important
At the heart of the LGBTQ+ movement, there is a fight against the commodification of our existence. The idea, that whether LGBTQ+ are part of the mainstream, whether they have offspring, whether they fall under the “norm”, whether their lives are considered “productive” or not they have unalterable value. It also means that this value transcends death too. In the small family at the intersection of LGBTQ+ human rights and business, we ought to mark Monica’s passing in the same way we acknowledged her strong presence when she was alive.
In the past few days, the sheer number of reactions to Monica’s passing were a reminder of how impactful her life was. The donations to her memorial fund for the America Foundation for Suicide Prevention have reached $35K in a few days with hundreds of comments describing her as “a delightful shining light”.
Because of her position as a Managing Director at Accenture, she was part of a handful of visible lesbians that had made it to the top of business and as such she had sway. But instead of using that power to her own benefit, she tried to ensure it trickled down to the most marginalized in the community. When LBTQ+ Women interviewed her in 2020, they asked her personal questions including “What would you like to be if you didn’t do what you currently do?” and she responded: “I’d love to be a philanthropist and support many worthy causes in the world”.
Many this week reminisced about her long-lasting commitment to engage the private sector in the LGBTQ+ liberation movement as her legacy. And indeed, Monica is part of the reason the World Economic Forum is finally engaged on the LGBTQ+ topic for the past two years, she was part of a business delegation to the Vatican urging the Catholic church to stop defending the criminalization of homosexuality. She was engaged with many non-profits such as Outright Action International or Gender-Cool. She engaged her wide network to support queer artists through the Every Woman Biennal or Queer|Art. Monica worked hard so that the LGBTQ+ movement would benefit more than a few highly educated corporate white urbanites.
But truly her legacy is the way she treated the people she encountered. Her warmth, her genuine interest in other people’s journey, her intentionality in connecting people and her ability to pay close attention to every person in the room. At the Macy’s Parade Balloon Previews in NYC or the Pride Soirees in Atlanta, she and her beloved partner since 1992 Ellen hosted, Monica would joyfully engage every guest with her trademark laughter personifying Southern Hospitality.
In the 2020 LGBTQ+ interview, she speaks about the importance of “leading with love”: “we need to smile, laugh and lead with love as technology is infused more and more in our lives and human interactions become less frequent”. A point she defined as her motto in a recent Out Leadership interview.
Today, I was writing to her friend how I regret I did not reach out to Monica during the pandemic. In January 2020, she and Ellen were captains of my table at the HRC dinner, and I skipped it because I was ill. The pandemic hit and we lost touch.
There is no hall of fame for the business leaders that leverage their position for the global movement. If not Monica ought to be in there. But for now the way to remember her is to extend generosity, warmth and kindness to the people we meet every day the way she would and to “lead with love”.