This month has an important theme for those of us serving the profession, Women’s History Month.
It began as Women’s Day, which was celebrated on Feb. 28, 1909, by a group of Manhattan socialists and suffragists in honor of the one-year anniversary of the garment strike led by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. Later in 1987, the month of March was officially established as Women’s History Month by the U.S. Congress. This date in March has always resonated with me because it was the next month on April 11, 1987, that my dad died when I was 30 years old. I became the first woman President and CEO of our family firm.
It’s incredible to see so many more funeral, cemetery, and cremation companies, along with the supplier service companies, posting photos of some of their women leaders and thanking them for their dedication to our profession. I congratulate them all for their emphasis on women this month! Most of these companies I see posting are leaders in their fields and their communities because they have their focus in the right place, which is to celebrate and honor their female team members. Good for all of you!!
I do believe that we as a profession, should be doing much more every month to develop and promote women in our profession. Employers are sharing that they are struggling to find and retain licensees and experienced staff. What greater opportunity do they have than to look at the recent mortuary graduates, as well as look deeper into their own companies as more women desire to be given a chance to succeed? The women I meet, know, and have coached, are knowledge seekers and sponges looking to soak up more knowledge and training.
The opportunities are there, the question is are they being given opportunities? Are their employers investing in their coaching, mentoring, and developmental needs?
The statistics are very inadequate in tracking the number of women licensees or female leadership in the U.S. However, what we do know today from NFDA reporting from their current member survey data in 2022, there are 86.4% of owners that are male, 13.6% are female, and 73.2% of managers are male, 26.8% are female. So as far as women in ownership and leadership roles in our profession, we have a long way to go to improve the balance in these numbers.
The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) reports from some of their latest statistics, that 29.75% of funeral service graduates are male, and 79.25% are female. ABFSE has job placement statistics but not broken out by gender. The average job placement rate for all funeral service graduates is 84% for all schools.
Thus, these statistics lead me to believe there is hope that the number of women in leadership and ownership will improve in the coming years. How long that will take is anyone’s guess.
One of the goals of my coaching company is to help owners find ways to improve and grow their companies by developing their employees as leaders at all levels. If most of the students graduating and entering the profession are female, then this tells us it will be women who will become the majority of the staff that are in need of development in most companies both today and in the future.
My hope is also that the women currently in our profession are working to grow themselves and uplift other women in their organizations. As women, we must learn to advocate for our funeral service sisters while lifting each other up each day. In my opinion as women, we must work harder to continuously encourage and support each other.
This year, a number of events and programs are currently happening in our profession especially targeted to help develop and support women. I hope that employers and managers will consider sending their female and non-binary women to these events to help them network and learn from each other.
NFDA Professional Women’s Conference: is set for May 5th through 7th at the Westin Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas. Registration opens March 13th details about registration are available at www.nfda.org/pwc, or by calling 800-228-6332 (262-789-1880).
Selected Independent Funeral Homes
Women in Funeral Service Community
Selected offers a Women’s Forum for its members and this coming year is in the planning stages for a Wellness Retreat. The date and time are yet to be determined. Contact Liz Centi at email@example.com for further information.
Death Care Collective began in 2022 as a book club and is now an online group of professional women who have regular discussions on issues such as work, and life balance and have quarterly book reviews. Their sole purpose is connecting, supporting, and empowering women within the profession. As of this writing, they have over 682 followers on LinkedIn. You can learn more about them by visiting www.deathcarecollective.com
Cold Hands Workshop and Retreat 2023
This women’s only workshop and retreat on May 18-20th will include opportunities for serious self-care, inner reflection, and mind-body and soul rejuvenation. This retreat is organized by Monica Torres of NXT Generation Mortuary Support, founder of Cold Hand Studio and Learning Center. Monica is internationally recognized as a leader in body preparations of deceased human remains and she is a specialist who works as a liaison with funeral homes to empower families on the path toward healing with professional guidance and education. Get tickets by visiting www.nxtgenmortuarysupport.com/event/cold-hands-workshop-and-retreat-2023
Stay tuned this month for two of our upcoming podcast episodes from Your Funeral Coach Talks with Melissa Posey Loose from NFDA on the upcoming Professional Women’s Conference and Erin Creger, Chief Sales Officer and Partner of Envision Strategic Partners and one of the Founders of Death Care Collective.
It is also my hope that as the years go forward, there are more supportive programs like these for women. If the statistics are telling us anything, women will be the future force in our profession.
A great quote to leave you with as reported from goodreads.com in honor of Women’s History Month is from a female author of some incredible uplifting books, Richelle E. Goodrich, “There is strength in numbers, yes, but even more so in collective good will. For those endeavors are supported by mighty forces as unseen.” Richellegoodrich.com
I believe that women in our death care profession will become mighty forces of influence and leadership. Many who are unseen now, will be the future majority of those caring for families and uplifting our profession.
I also would like to share a message for all the male employers and managers reading this blog today, I encourage you to pay attention to the growing number of women coming into our profession. My advice for you is to be willing to invest the time and resources in helping them grow. I encourage you to develop women at all levels in your firms most especially in the areas of growing their leadership skills.
If help is needed to develop women further, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or any of our Collaborative Network Partners who are here to assist you in any way to help you grow yourself, your team, and your business.
Blessings on your March and happy Women’s History Month to all the great women out there serving in our profession today, you are a small but mighty force!
My best always,
Listen in as Lisa Baue of Your Funeral Coach Talks podcast is joined by Kim Medici Shelquist as she shares some of her leadership lessons and tips. Kim is the former Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning for Homesteaders Life Company, a role she retired from late last year. She currently consults on the company’s ForGrief.com initiative. The episode is available HERE or anywhere you listen to your podcasts!
Leadership with Kim Medici Shelquist of Homesteaders Life Company