International Women’s Day – Inspiring Uncommon Members: Louise

Every woman has an incredible journey to share with the world.

We’re putting the spotlight on our very own members and their career paths this International Women’s Day.

Here is Louise’s story:

What is it that you do and why did you choose this career path? 
I’m a funeral director and the founder of Poetic Endings, a modern funeral service in London. I help people to put together beautiful and meaningful funerals. 
I had a very different career before. I went from fashion to working as a creative strategist at a start-up. I’d never even been to a funeral until I was 26, now I’ve been to hundreds. The first funeral I ever attended was my Grandad’s. I had so many questions – why do we have funerals? Are they important? Should we dismiss them? What do funeral directors do? Can it be done better? 
It didn’t take long for me to decide to leave behind my previous career. I’ve never regretted it! I feel like death is my life’s work.

Would you say there are equal opportunities within your line of work? Did you have to face any challenges related to inequality in your career and if so, how did you overcome those? 
So many funeral homes are either corporate companies or inherited family businesses. I didn’t inherit a company and no one in my family is a funeral director, so I had to start from square one. The industry isn’t as male-dominated as people might imagine, although the masonic influence is everywhere. The biggest challenge has been to stay true to my values – creativity, warmth, openness, transparency, collaboration – values which might be considered to be more feminine, in what is a really ruthless and competitive industry where more masculine values have dominated for a long time.

What women inspires you the most or is your biggest influence?
I’m most inspired by the other women who have challenged and questioned the status quo and set up funeral services based on values of openness, honesty, transparency and creativity. There are lots of us all around the UK (and beyond). I love that we have a created a collaborative community to share ideas and best practise and to support each other in doing really challenging but important work. Shout out to Fran & Carrie, Lucy, Sarah, Cara, Hasina, Jo and all the other brilliant women funeral directors out there.

What advice would you give to young women looking to start working in your sector?
Do it! If you’re looking for a rewarding, creative and meaningful career, the funeral industry is an option, surprisingly. It’s changed so much in the last few years. Emotional intelligence, life experience, enthusiasm and personality are much more important than academic qualifications and prior work experience. I love working alongside inspiring and inspired individuals who are enthusiastic about the important work we’re doing to help people to say goodbye. Anyone who is interested in working in the funeral industry should start by joining the Good Funeral Guild – it’s a supportive and welcoming community of funeral professionals from all over the UK.

As we continue going through the challenging times of change, what are your professional plans and career focus for the rest of 2021? Please mention any new projects you’re currently working on.
I’ve just finished writing a book about death and dying with my colleague Anna Lyons, who works as an end-of-life doula. It’s a practical but (hopefully!) profound handbook on everything you need to know about illness, dying, death, funerals, grief and so much more.  It’s full of inspiring stories as well as our own experiences of love and loss. I promise it’s not a gloomy or depressing book; it might be about death and dying but it’s really about life and living. It’s called We All Know How This Ends and it will be published by Bloomsbury on March 18th 2021.

You can follow Poetic Endings on Instagram.

#ChooseToChallenge