Women in the funeral profession are building successful businesses in what was once considered a traditionally male environment. And that is despite reports that suggest the pandemic had negative effects on women and work.
Today we are celebrating a local woman who has developed her company in a male-dominated business. Melanie Dolega set up Country Funerals, Towcester with her business partner Shaun White over five years ago.
It’s a mans-world
Incredibly, in 2019, 82.5% of undertakers, mortuary and crematorium assistants were men with only 17.5% women. Not only that, women in these professions received about £3000 less per year than men but worked more hours! Funeral Directors fair slightly better with over two-thirds being female. We are proud to say that Melanie Dolega is one of those women.
The role of women in the funeral profession has changed. Melanie believes the move from preparing the deceased person for the burial to directing funerals is positive. There benefits for both women and most importantly families who are saying goodbye.
Motivation to succeed
Melanie’s motivation to start the business came from a desire to succeed as a female in the sector. She also feels that as the service has become more professional and she can bring an added level of understanding and care. It’s five years since set up her business Country Funerals and reviews are incredibly complimentary.
With over fifteen years working in the profession, she certainly knows what families and friends need at this sensitive time. When you lose a loved one, it is not just the practical decisions that are important. Although Melanie and Shaun organise the practicalities of making arrangements, she also advises on all aspects. That includes how to commemorate someone’s passing, the flowers, music, coffins and so on. Along with this Melanie says a funeral director has to shoulder the load for the family. This means listening, giving them time and gently helping them to get through the emotional times.
Professional and supportive
She believes her experience counts in this profession and empathy is not gender-specific. Unfortunately, in her opinion, the perception of power, control and decision-making remains an ongoing area of concern for women in the independent funeral businesses.
In fact, Melanie believes that supporting people in their bereavement is possibly one of the most important parts of her work. It is daunting to organise a funeral at the best of times and more recently perhaps even more so than normal. People are vulnerable and under pressure to get it right. It is essential that a funeral director provides a respectful and personal funeral. She and her colleague Shaun discovered that their therapy dogs, Breeze and Diesel are able to help. On request, families or individual can find their presence a comfort during the funeral arrangements. This can help to make the more difficult decisions slightly easier.
Promoting isn’t easy
When you need the services of a funeral director, in most cases you will rarely shop around. Our choices are, generally, based on who we have heard of or who was recommended. It is also hard for new independent businesses to promote themselves due to the delicate nature of the business. This is probably one of the biggest challenges The Country Funeral Directors have faced. It is equally difficult in the digital world where businesses are posting about happy times.
These days online reviews and testimonials are an essential part of a business’s success. Yet, even asking for those is difficult for this funeral profession. Happily, it is good to see the number and regularity of positive reviews about Country Funerals. Everyone refers to their professional service, caring, kindness and understanding.
What she’s learnt
Melanie has learnt so much since beginning her business. When she and Shaun set out they chose their business location by giving consideration to their competitors. We wonder if this is part of being a woman or is it simply about her caring nature in all aspects. If she was to do something differently, she says she realises she would think more about what her business needs.
Because she cares
Like many women in business, her caring extends beyond work. As well as running the business she has responsibility for caring for elderly family members. While this is a more traditional role, she says she gratefully takes it on.
Wishing Melanie and all the other women in the professions dominated by men the best of luck.