Funeral Industry News

Women in the Funeral Industry: One Challenge Stands in Their Way

May 24, 2011

Ryan Thogmartin is the CEO of DISRUPT Media | Follower of Christ | Husband | Father | Entrepreneur | Host of #DISRUPTu! and #FUNERALnationtv | Lover of Skittles DISRUPT Media is a social media content agency that focuses on storytelling for funeral companies. We use real stories to build creative strategies that achieve actual business goals.

Women in the Funeral Industry: One Challenge Stands in Their Way

A glance inside the classrooms at any mortuary school confirms an industry trend: women are outnumbering men in choosing a career in funeral service. Yet in the job search that follows, women candidates are not always on an equal playing field with the men. Prospective employers appreciate a woman’s empathy and attention to details, admire her impressive credentials and respect her educational accomplishments. But a question often lingers in an employer’s mind: Can she lift?

In 2010, women comprised 57% of the mortuary student population, an increase of more than 60% since 1995, according to NFDA. Not content to be in the front office only, these women want an active role in all aspects of funeral service, including the prep room. Katie Hill, a third-generation licensed funeral director, understands firsthand the physical demands of the job. So her company, Mortuary Lift, manufactures the Ultimate 1000 Lift TM, making it possible for employers to get beyond their concern of whether or not a female candidate can lift.

“Women are often drawn to the funeral industry because of their empathy,” states company president Hill. “However, once in the profession they realize it’s not just about meeting with and supporting families. It’s all the additional responsibilities such as dressing bodies, lifting them onto prep tables, lifting caskets in and out of shipping trays and onto casket biers.” The Ultimate 1000 Lift TM enables a woman to carry out a full range of responsibilities singlehandedly. Not only does it broaden her capabilities, but it eliminates the need for several people to be involved in the processes.

Hill spent 10 years as a licensed funeral director at her family’s funeral home. Early on, her father realized the benefits a lift would offer, not just to his daughter but to the entire staff. His search brought him to a boat hoist manufacturer who had designed a version of a hoist for funeral homes and mortuaries. Unfamiliar with the death-care industry, the manufacturer was struggling to market and sell it. So Hill’s father recognized the opportunity, bought the company and its inventory and made his own lift. His daughter, Katie, managed this new venture and today she owns and operates the company, Mortuary Lift.

Hill’s business has experienced annual double-digit growth, in part a reflection of women choosing funeral service as a career. “I am seeing an increase in calls from funeral home owners who say they are impressed with a woman they have interviewed and think they should have a lift to accommodate her,” says Hill. But, she points out, a lift brings efficiency to funeral homes and mausoleums, whether or not women are employed there.

Lifting can challenge men as well as women, particularly with the growing number of large and obese cases. “A 500-pound body and an oversized casket can weigh 700 pounds,” Hill points out. “Just lifting it onto the casket bier requires multiple employees and puts all of them at risk of injury.” The Ultimate 1000 Lift TM allows one person to perform all lifting – up to as much as 1000 pounds. “Tighter profit margins require fewer employees,” says Hill. “Our customers appreciate the streamlined staff our lift allows as well as the independence it brings to women and the overall reduction in risks of injury.”

“Being able to do all elements of the job is very liberating for women and allows them to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with men in the job market,” says Hill. “And a lift gives a positive answer to the question ‘Can she lift?’”

See a demonstration of the Ultimate 1000 Lift TM and hear what funeral home owners say about the lift. Visit