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7th Jul, 2022

Funeral business leader in Warwickshire busting gender bias in formerly male-dminated industry

THE STEREOTYPE of the male dominated funeral business is changing says a Warwickshire businesswoman.

A funeral business leader has been recognised by her employer for ‘breaking the bias’ in the funeral sector.

Sarah Wallace, who works across W G Rathbone funeral directors’ branches in Warwickshire, is being recognised, along with thousands of female funeral professionals across the UK who care for the bereaved and those they have lost.

In pre-Victorian times, before funeral directing became a profession, the practical tasks required when someone in a community died were divided among the male and female members.

The caring job of ‘laying out’ the dead would fall to a woman, who may well have also acted as a midwife.

The men would be responsible for physical tasks such as digging the grave, making a coffin, transporting the deceased and sometimes helping to carry the coffin.

Today, there are many female funeral directors, arrangers, embalmers and crematorium and funeral business leaders helping families say farewell to their loved ones but the funeral sector is traditionally male-dominated.

Sarah, who initially embarked on a career in hairdressing, said: “After starting an apprenticeship in hairdressing, I moved into working in palliative care. I was interested in the next stage of care in the end-of-life journey.

“In 2015 I saw an advert for a part time Funeral Arranger at W G Rathbone Funeral Directors, and I applied straight away.”

Over three years, Sarah progressed to a funeral director position at Grimmett & Timms in Coventry and was recently promoted to business leader at W G Rathbone for Warwickshire.

“I love my job and helping bereaved families through possibly the most difficult time in their lives and also supporting my team to provide the best possible service that we can. I treat every family I support as if they were my own.”

Sarah explained it was now easier for women to progress in the industry but occasionally its patriarchal roots were still evident through a client minority.

“We are now more accepted. The stereotype of the male dominated industry is changing. There’s a small minority of families who still specifically request a male funeral director for the funeral of their loved one. This is something that we are still overcoming but I understand this is a very traditional view. I don’t take it personally.”

Sarah and the company are also challenging traditional notions that women cannot be mothers while also pursuing a career.

She said: “I had my daughter at a young age and I faced comments from people that I would never have a proper career. Since joining Dignity, I’ve realised that I can be successful in my career while also looking after my young family. I even got my recent promotion whilst on maternity leave. This just shows that in a forward-thinking company like Dignity, you can be successful and care for your family.”

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