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Are we there yet? By Lisa Baue

Funeral Service is a growing career choice for women today. During Women’s History Month, let us celebrate and honor those who taught us how to be professional women, how to be great funeral directors, how to stand up for what we believe in, and most of all, how to be proud of ourselves for all we have and are accomplishing.

Women’s History Month, celebrated annually in March, honors women’s contributions and achievements across history and society. It evolved from a week-long observance to a month in 1987 in the United States, aiming to acknowledge women’s roles and struggles for equality and rights. This month serves as a time to educate about and inspire action towards gender equality.

I stepped into the profession as a young funeral director, becoming an owner at 33 after my father’s untimely death. Influential women have been my mentors and supporters, instilling professionalism and resilience in me. We also salute the women currently pioneering in the field, their supportive employers, and associations that promote and educate them.

The deathcare profession is gradually evolving. While women increasingly enter the field and some attain leadership roles, the overall progression towards gender parity, particularly in top positions, is slow to come. Yet, there are encouraging signs, with entities like ICCFA, NFDA, Selected, OGR, Death Care Collective (DCC), and PFDI electing female presidents or establishing supportive committees and programs.

My experiences as a mentor and coach reveal that women in funeral services often feel undervalued and question their growth opportunities. It is extremely important that our profession increases their support and development for women to prevent talent attrition. Notably, while enrollment and graduation rates of women from mortuary schools are high (close to 70%), their transition into the profession is not without challenges, such as finding apprenticeships and employers with flexible schedules to accommodate their personal and career goals.

Professional development is critical. Hearing from numerous women who must use personal time for further education indicates a gap in employer support. Development of women as leaders is not there yet, despite available programs and academies from various funeral service associations.

Our collective goal must be to foster an environment where both women and men are mentored to become future leaders. By investing in the next generation, we aim for a future where our profession’s history reflects a more equitable number of men, women and minorities in leadership roles, demonstrating our commitment to nurturing and promoting exceptional professionals. We should inspire for more than what we currently have achieved and encourage a more robust professional and personal development for everyone, especially women deathcare.

Wishing you a March full of time for yourself, time to work on your goals, and time to develop yourself and others to be the best funeral service professional you can be.

P.S. Don’t miss my latest podcast episode with Marguerite Ham, where we tackle the pressing question: Why do younger generations often leave funeral service roles within five years? We explore the dynamic influence of women and non-binary individuals in the profession, delve into millennials’ quest for respect and advancement, and discuss the critical role of leadership in bridging the gap between young professionals’ expectations and the current support framework. Listen in for a candid conversation on how women and non-binary individuals are reshaping the future of deathcare. In this month’s issue, we have Kristen Ernst, MA, LPC, sharing her insights on enhancing self-confidence through actionable strategies. Kristen underscores the negative impact of self-criticism and the benefits of positive self-talk, setting personal boundaries, reducing social media comparisons, ‘acting’ confident and prioritizing self-care. I hope you find her article both enlightening and engaging. Please pass it on to anyone whom you feel might benefit.