Women Prove the Funeral Business Isn’t a Boy’s Club Anymore

June 09, 2018 | | Comments 0

These days it’s easy to believe that gendered occupations are a thing of the past.  Today, girls grow up knowing they aren’t limited to teaching or nursing while young boys understand they don’t have to be firemen or grocers.  Still, there are some professions which are viewed as leaning heavily towards men or women.  When most people think about funeral directors, even the most open-minded and progressive person is likely to envision a man.  But there are many women being attracted to the field and they are breathing new life into the profession.

Why Men?

There are a number of reasons why men have dominated the funeral directors field.  The biggest reason is, of course, that for many years funerals homes – like most small businesses – were run by men as a matter of course.  Funeral homes were also often a family run business and the husband ran the office and business side of things while his wife ran the home and caring for the children.  It was simply a byproduct of that cultural standard.

Once the workplace became more equal and both men and women began breaking out of their traditional roles, men were still more likely to funeral directors than women.  A big reason for this was the perception of men as being stronger, less likely to break down in tears and even less likely to experience emotional burnout.  Let’s be clear – the life of a funeral director is not only demanding physically but also emotionally.  Dealing with people every day who are coping with such a traumatic event is exhausting.  Men were seen as being pillars of stoic strength during a time of great sorrow and upheaval.  This impression not only made it more difficult for women to break into the field, it also put a lot of pressure on men to bottle their emotions.

The Emergence of Women in the Field

While there have been women in the funeral field for generations, they were not seen as a substantial part.  That’s all changing now.  Today, there are neatly 10,000 women in the funeral professional field – a number that continues to grow.  While men still outnumber women in the field by a little more than 2 to 1, women are making a big impact on the field in general.  Still, today the National Funeral Directors Association reports that 16% of its membership is female – a jump from 10% in 2004.

The change of seeing more female faces as funeral directors coincides with a shift in how funerals are handled.  A few decades ago, mainstream funerals were very much a one-size-fits-all business.  Today. funeral directors don’t inform a family about what service they’ll have for a loved one.  Instead, they begin a conversation with that person’s closest friends and family to create a service in line with how the family wants to remember someone or in accordance with the person’s wishes.  In fact, many funeral directors find they now prefer the term coordinators since they aren’t directing so much as facilitating.

Does Gender Matter?

Of course, all this comparison between men and women in the field begs the question – does the gender of a funeral profession really matter that much?  Well, yes.  Just as much as their personality or anything else.  When people want to plan their own funeral or they need to make arrangement for a loved one, dealing with a someone you can relate to can go a long way in making the process more manageable.  Including diversity in terms of gender, race, background and culture brings more perspective, resources and people into the field.

The increased diversity seen in the field of the funeral arts isn’t about who’s better equipped to handle the demands of the job or why can offer more empathy or even who has a wider range of services.  It’s about ensuring that a funeral home reflects the community it serves.  As with anything else, that means creating a field that is welcoming to people and offers opportunities for education, apprenticeship and professional business.  As women become a force to be reckoned with in the industry they bring increased opportunity and a changing perception of the different types of strength required to handle one of the most difficult jobs in the world.


Filed Under: FeaturedFuneral Industry


About the Author: Kelly lives near Columbus, Ohio with her wife and two children. She enjoys urban exploration, hiking and is an avid reader.

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