Trend Shows Women Dominate the Funeral Profession
The Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel has been a family-owned and operated business since the late 1950s.
“A girlfriend of mine introduced us and she said, ‘The only weird thing is he’s a mortician,” said Karen Nilsen of meeting her husband, Morris. “I had this image of this tall, lanky man with a stovepipe hat. I don’t know where that came from.”
However, that stereotype is starting to melt away due to one changing trend.
“Our embalming lab that’s happening right now, today, is all female. There are no male students in that lab,” said Anne Christ, a senior in the University of Minnesota’s Mortuary Science Program.
According to the program director, in the 1970’s, men held 95 percent of all funeral-related jobs.
By 2000, the industry was split 50/50. This year, the U of M’s graduating class specializing in Mortuary Science is 75 percent female. Even higher than the 60 percent national average.
Dr. Michael LuBrant oversees the program. Although he can’t explain the shift in women now dominating a traditionally male-oriented industry, he says his students all share one characteristic.
“You have to have a very caring and empathetic heart to be successful as a funeral director,” said LuBrant.
“It appeals to the nurturing tendencies that I already have,” said Christ.
Nilsen is no exception to that rule.
She developed a program involving pictures and coloring books to help children learn that the grieving process doesn’t have to be scary, hoping the shift to more female funeral directors will also change one more fear-driven, false thought about the industry.
“It breaks the stereotype of the tall dark lanky man with the stovepipe hat!” she said.
Currently, there are just 16 men enrolled in the U of M Mortuary Science Program. That’s out of a total of 56 students.
LuBrant says about 50 percent of his male students are second or third generation aspiring funeral directors planning to take over the family business, whereas most of the women enrolled are coming from completely different backgrounds.
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