Has the emergence of the woman funeral director made death care a “softer, gentler” process
It’s been no secret that for the past 30 years more and more women have been becoming active in the death care profession. I saw the trend start with pre-need counselors but now according to this article from Spectrum 1, 65% of all graduates of funeral director programs in the United States are women.
Back when I finished mortuary school in 1980 I think we had one female in our class of 40 graduates — that would make our class percentage of females 2.5%. . . .quite a way from today’s 65%. What is interesting, however, both then and now, is that funeral directors that I worked with, including men, always seemed to sense that there should be more female funeral directors.
One of the things that drove that sense was that, while it is difficult to find statistics on the subject, it does seem apparent that more husbands die before their wife dies. That leads to a thought process that most funeral arrangements are made with the female as the, for lack of a better word, “lead” survivor. Following through with that process one might then believe that female funeral directors would seem to be in demand as the thought would be that female mourners might prefer to meet for the funeral arrangements with female directors — funeral directors who would be expected to have a common element with the bereaved . . . that comment element being gender.
Yet, with our funeral business, that has been in business now for 151 consecutive years, we did not have a female funeral director on staff for the first 135 of those years. It certainly does not appear that we were too worried about that issue and we seemed to move forward just fine.
But society has changed. Jack Lechner, President and CEO of the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science says women have more than opened up to the industry as less and less funeral directors’ children have followed their father’s footsteps into the profession.
Lechner continues with this thought, “It’s become more people who are searching for what they want to do with a career and that lends itself to women much better because they are more caring, more compassionate and they come in with the right attitude and the right empathy.”
I would argue that I came into the profession, much like Lechner describes the new females as “caring, compassionate, and having empathy.” I don’t think those traits are unique to one sex. That then brings up the question of “Does having more female funeral professionals lead to a more caring, softer, gentler, death care experience for the client family?”
I don’t know that answer. A couple of female funeral directors believe that as funeral services have changed a funeral director is no longer just performing tasks, but needs to be a “facilitator” or a “comforter” and, quite possibly, women are better in those roles.
In this article from Next Avenue, female funeral director Angela Woosley notes, “Preparing for a service is like being a project manager or an event planner. It’s a job that requires communication skills and the ability to multi-task, two areas where we know women excel.”
And, Monica Torres, another female funeral director says this in the same article, ““Families respond to women in that compassionate role. I can put my hand on someone’s hand or give them a hug and it won’t be misconstrued. It’s not going to be appropriate for my male counterpart to do that.”
So, while it is difficult to quantify if death care is “softer and gentler” with more females in funeral directing roles, I think it is also fair to say that the profession has changed from its male dominated perspective to a perspective that it is more than likely that when a consumer nows seeks pre-arrangement or death-care advice, the counselor will more often than not, be a female.
That would lead itself, in my opinion, to a listening and nurturing answer of any questions that the consumer had. It’s also my opinion that would lead, eventually, to more and more services that are different from what might be termed “normal”. Giving families what they “ask for” rather than what we “suggest” may well be a result of more female funeral directors in the field and, over time, change the nature of funeral service.
Related Article — “Why your funeral director will likely be a female”. Next Avenue
Related Article — “Gender dominance in funeral service is changing”. NFDA Blog
Related Article — “Why more women than men are now going to mortuary school.” WSAV.com (GA)
White Lady Funerals (website) — The Australian funeral firm that employees all female funeral directors.
White Lady Funerals (Information)— Australia’s premium funeral brand.
More news from the world of Death Care:
Tucson Opinion The state should follow through on “green” burial options. Tucson.com (AZ)
“Natural burials” idea is likely dead in Connecticut for now. Connecticut Public Radio (CT)
NSCC’s funeral service program now enrolling. The Salem News (MA)
Dignity shares to be cancelled next month as buyout edges closer. Morningstar
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