CINCINNATI — It’s a profession many wouldn't think of, but the death care business is becoming increasingly more popular for women to enter. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science is the oldest mortuary college in the world and the only one in the state of Ohio

  • Historically, the profession has been male dominated

  • According to the American Board of Funeral Service Education, 65% of graduates in funeral director programs in the U.S. in 2017 were women

  • Students like Kathy Vancil-Coleman said it's thanks to women that came before her that she can get into the field much easier 

Kathy Vancil-Coleman works hard on restorative art. The practice is one of many students at the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science learn throughout their education.

“It just gives them that sort of finality, that chance to have that last moment with their loved one whereas they might have not had that due to whatever the circumstances were of their death," Vancil-Coleman said.

Restorative art is used to reconstruct facial features of the deceased, if needed. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

Vancil-Coleman wanted to pursue funeral direction after high school, but didn't.

“People were like no that’s weird, that’s not a job for women," she said.

But when her grandfather passed away during the COVID pandemic, she decided to take the leap of faith. Vancil-Coleman left her job in health care and went back to school to become a funeral director.

“Because of all the COVID restrictions, we didn’t have a funeral for him," Vancil-Coleman said. "And I felt like we were really robbed of that experience, which is so important to process the loss that it kind of woke that back up in me like no this is something I need to do.”

And she’s not the only woman in her class, in fact her class of over thirty is mostly women, including Kim Pattee. Pattee and Vancil-Coleman both work in funeral homes while not in class, and their entire staffs are also women.

Vancil-Coleman and Pattee move a casket.
Vancil-Coleman and Pattee move a casket. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

In 2017, almost 65% of graduates from funeral director programs in the US were women, according to the American Board of Funeral Service Education.

“It does make me feel hopeful," Pattee said. "And it makes me feel more confident like I do belong here.”

But it hasn’t always been like that.

When Jack Lechner, the president and CEO of the college, started school in 1972, his class of 19 had just two women.

He said the way the industry is changing, with many funeral directors’ children no longer wanting to get in the business, has turned the tables.

Classes at CCMS were historically male dominated. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“It’s become more people who are searching for what they want to do with a career and that lends itself to women much better because they are more caring, more compassionate and they come in with the right attitude and the right empathy," Lechner said.

Vancil-Coleman said she’s glad she finally followed her dream.

“I wish I would have listened then," Vancil-Coleman said. "But that’s okay because I’m here now and there have been so many amazing women who have come before me that have blazed that trail.”