Men have always dominated the funeral business, but the profession is changing

10:13 AM, Jun 13, 2011   |    comments
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DALLAS (NBC) -- Chelsea Smith likely doesn't fit your image of the person you might meet at a funeral home.

Chelsea Smith says "I do all of the hair and makeup here, dress them, get them casketed and ready for their visitation or funeral. Honoring a person and who they were, making their families feel comfortable."

As an employee at Allen Family Funeral Options, owned by her parents, Smith is learning what it takes to be funeral director. She's following the lead of her mother who decided to enter mortuary school when she was 30.

Melanie Allen says "it was 1990 and i believe there were probably 10 of us and we had a class of about 150. I think that the community responds very well to women, I think that the sensitive nature that a woman has during this time is a huge benefit, not that men can't be or are not but I just think that there is a difference."

At Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, Marquetta Hubbard admits she still fighting a few stereotypes and misperceptions.

Marquetta Hubbard says "I know a lot of people don't like to shake my hands."

She started at age 30, too after years of managing a group home for the disabled she calls her work a ministry.

Marquetta Hubbard says "you have to have a passion for this, because you will experience some things that the average person wouldn't be able to handle."

Their careers represent a significant shift in the funeral industry. not that long ago women only as receptionists and office support.

Golden gate now has 10 women who are fully-licensed funeral directors. Hubbard's boss, John Beckwith Jr., says families do seem to prefer working with women.

John Beckwith, Jr. says "I think we finally realized as owners that women brought something special to the business which is that special touch."

The only mortuary school in north Texas, the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service, says today women make up more than half of each class and the gap is growing. But they still get questions about why they do this.

Melanie Allen says "and the answer simply is probably 90 percent of what i do is with the living and taking care of them through the most difficult days of their life. they've lost somebody very close and near and dear to them, and if I can be there to carry them through that next step of positive grief then I've done my job."

And chelsea says she's almost ready to join their ranks.

Chelsea Smith says "my parents would love for me to follow in their footsteps and go ahead and go to mortuary school i'm probably most likely going to be doing that."

Organizations exist in the Dallas area to support women in the funeral industry. One group already has close to 400 members.

NBC

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