Whenever one hears the terms “mortician,” or “funeral director,” the image our mind conjures is that of a black-clad male figure. However, since 2017, there has been a marked increase in women taking up the mantle and changing the industry.
Historically, caring for the deceased and preparing their bodies was considered women’s work. Going as far back as Ancient Greece or even the Civil War, women conducted the death rites, primarily in the home. Shrouding women or midwives would cleanse the body and prepare it for burial. Women were seen as more intuitive and emotionally sensitive to the bereaved’s needs, making them a more natural fit for the role. It was only when funerals and embalming became a career in the late 19th century that women were forced back into traditional domestic roles.
In a business that has historically been slow to embrace change, the wave of women working in funeral homes is changing the stereotype of the man in the somber black suit. They have often had to fight social stigmas and old-fashioned mentalities: women can’t lift coffins, women shouldn’t be exposed to embalming chemical while pregnant, etc. Despite the prejudice, women have continued to enter deathcare, especially as the industry itself is currently shifting the way it approaches funerals.
The fundamental nature of the industry has changed from a finite function to a more client-centered approach. Today’s mortuary science curriculum includes more instruction in psychology, grief dynamics, and bereavement in addition to anatomy and business management to better prepare directors to offer empathy to families in mourning–a quality in which many women naturally possess.
The women’s right’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s changed the educations and professions of women. In 2017, nearly 65 percent of graduates in the United States were female, according to the American Board of Funeral Service Education. Despite the rise in female graduating into the industry, there is still a disparity in terms of employment. Only 26.3 percent of employed morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors were female.
Williams & Nickl has represented thousands of licensed professionals and their licensed business entities who face issues with IDFPR. If you find yourself in such a situation, Williams & Nickl can provide the help you need.