Feminists.com creator and CNN author Marianne Schnall, declared late last year that “2018 will be the year of women.” Three months into 2018, the #TimesUp movement is altering workplace environments across many different fields, a record number of women are running for public office in 2018, and we are starting to see cracks in the glass ceilings of some typically male-dominated fields, like the funeral industry.
Currently, 16 percent of the National Funeral Directors Association’s membership is female, according to data reported in a recent MarketWatch article. While this is up from 10 percent in 2004, it’s still a long way from gender parity. But that will change in the coming years.
That’s because, like at U.S. medical schools and law schools, the majority of students in U.S. mortuary science programs are currently female. “In the past decade, the number of women enrolled in the nation’s 59 accredited mortuary science programs began to meet and then exceed the number of their male classmates. In 2016, 61 percent of students in college and university programs were female,” according to the MarketWatch article.
At the five institutions that graduate the most students in Funeral Service and Mortuary Science, four have more women enrolled in their programs than men. The one program that is still majority male is just barely so: 71 men versus 68 women.
The MarketWatch article notes that as cremation has overtaken burial in the United States, for many, traditional funerals are morphing into celebrations of life that might not involve a house of worship. This means the funeral director, as opposed to a clergy member, must handle more of the event details—from helping clients choose a cremation urn to setting up a multisensory room.
“Preparing for a service is like being a project manager or an event planner,” said Angela Woosley, senior teaching instructor at the University of Minnesota’s program of Mortuary Science, in the MarketWatch article. “It’s a job that requires communication skills and the ability to multitask, two areas where we know women excel.”