Women in death care. . .overlooked for so long, now becoming the CEO’s


From time to time I peruse my electronic copy of Funeral Service Times, a paid electronic subscription magazine from Great Britain.  I always enjoy reading it. . .wondering if some of what is happening across the pond relates to funeral, cremation, and cemetery services in the United States.  By the way, I think there is a lot of correlation on that point. . . some matters are closer to other matters as our death care customs have, over differing times, both diverged and converged.


One of the interesting points that jumped out to me while reading Funeral Service Times this week was that three of the largest death care companies in Great Britain are led, at least in part, by females.  In the United States we are quickly becoming a nation of many female funeral directors, but I have yet to see, on a national basis, large national death care businesses led by women.  We do have women leading some of the largest non-profit organizations such as Barbara Kemmis at the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) and Christine Pepper of the National Funeral Director Association (NFDA).


Probably as close as we have come in the United States to a national led death care company may have been Kim Ryan who led Hillenbrand Industries which recently jettisoned its death care business, Batesville.  Or, maybe the leader is Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of human composting company, Recompose, which is local, but looking to spread its wings.


I read three articles this morning, each one featuring a female death care leader from the United Kingdom.  They include Dignity plc’s CEO Kate Davidson — Dignity is Great Britain’s largest public death care provider.  I also read an article on Golden Charter’s CEO Suzanne Grahame.  Golden Charter is listed as “funeral plan provider” which I compare to a United States preneed company.  Finally, I read an article from earlier in 2022 about Catherine Powell, co-founder with her husband Bryan, of fast-growing direct cremation provider Pure Cremation.


Here’s some comments from each of those leaders:


From Dignity’s Kate Davidson on a question of what is the Dignity crematorium and funeral strategy.

Davidson:  “At the heart of our organization is a core purpose to help people say goodbye, to remember and to celebrate the life of those they’ve lost as well as plan ahead for their own funeral, so that their wishes are clearly articulated, with peace of mind that the costs are covered rather than falling to loved ones.


From Golden Charter’s Grahame on trends she sees:

Grahame:  . . . “the past four years has been a time of “seismic change” in the funeral sector. . . . Looking at the current market, the industry is in a position of “extreme flux” as “the customer has more choice now than they’ve ever had before and they’re far better informed. . . .We are at the cusp of even more significant change driven almost entirely by the heightened level of consumer awareness and interaction, making the funeral market a far more open place . . . .”


From Catherine Powell, whose company Pure Cremation caters to the over 100,000 Great Britain families that now choose “Direct Cremation”.   She answers on where her company may be in the next five years:

Powell:  “My business began as a funeral provider that sold a few funeral plans. Now we are a funeral plan company with the full vertical integration to deliver those plans, and we are planning to add legal and financial services to our offering. Over the next 5 years we want to become the UK’s most trusted brand for later-life planning, making it easier and more affordable to protect your treasures and the people you care about.”

Here is the article on Kate Davidson and Dignity plc

Here is the article on Suzanne Grahame and Golden Charter

Here is the article on Catherine Powell and Pure Cremation

Editor’s Note:  Access to these articles may be restricted via a paywall.


Funeral Director Daily take:  Maybe it is just me because I’ve always been concerned with the dollars and cents to make sure that our funeral operation was profitable, but I sense more than that in these leaders.  They seem to have visions of a more “abstract” view of where their respective companies are going and can really see that “big picture” viewpoint that will eventually lead to more dollars and cents for their companies.


I know that funeral service is in a different place than when I was in my heyday and it was simply a faith-based funeral with a choice of casket or cremation.  I know it is not that simple anymore and those in the industry who think it is will get left in the jet stream of those who figure out the right way to attract clientele.


In essence, it’s a whole new game of “caring” for your clientele.  The “caring” will entail much more than the immediate time of the death.  I think the full-service death care company will provide “care” from end-of-life planning, through a death care disposition selection, with a possible focal point of remembrance or celebration, and then continue with thoughts and help on permanent memorialization, and finally get to a grief support platform and financial education platform that makes it easier for those survivors to navigate potential pitfalls and carry on.


I also find it interesting that each of these three woman leaders seems to, in differing ways, prioritize that type of vision moving forward.


More news from the world of Death Care:

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