At the risk of sounding sexist, there are hundreds of jobs out there that we will generally label as being ‘man’s’ work.
And although in this day and age, more opportunities are opening up to women in a variety of ‘masculine careers’, you still don’t tend to get many women funeral directors, but that’s exactly what Belle Pari does for a living.
To look at Belle, a funeral director is probably the last thing you’d expect she does for a living.
But believe it or not, her interest in the funeral industry goes back to her school days, where her interest led teachers to become so concerned, they contacted her parents.
She remembers: “The careers lady said I needed counselling as nice girls don’t want to work with the dead, and the school even called my parents to say I had issues.
“My father laughed at them and told them just because I was a girl it didn’t mean I couldn’t do a certain job and he told me follow my heart and if the school couldn’t help me, there would be a way to do it.”
When Belle left school in 1985, she discovered the only way to work in the funeral industry was to have a family member already working in a funeral directors.
Back then, they didn’t tend to give work to outsiders, so Belle continued to research and read funeral industry news before becoming involved in wills and probate and genealogy.
She had her first son at 19 and despite, she says, people telling her that her life was over, she was undeterred in her ambition, putting her son in private nursery while she studied business and finance before another son followed when Belle was 24.
Eventually, after working in a solicitor’s practice, Belle became a member of the Guild of Professional Will Writers and then started the business she runs today, which includes wills, trusts, child guardianships, powers of attorney and funeral planning. She is a member of the Natural Death Society, The Good Funeral Guide and the Federation of Funeral Directors.
Her role as an advocate serving Cheshire and North Wales, means she fulfils the wishes of her clients, supports them and ensures she can provide an affordable funeral for them.
But despite her success, Belle says she still finds that women have antiquated views on later life planning and wants to encourage them to take more control.
“The amount of times I hear: ‘Oh my husband deals with all that type of thing”, when often it is the woman that is left to deal with everything,” she says.
“It still amazes me how many women still feel the need to say they will have to ask my partner if its ok when it comes to planning their own wills or funerals.”
And although it’s true that although more and more women are taking on unconventional jobs in this day and age, Belle is still getting shocked reactions about her line of work.
“I don’t look like what you expect from a funeral director or someone who works within the funeral industry and my friends like to shock people when they introduce me to others – the look on people’s faces is priceless,” she says.
“Sometimes I get asked ‘why would you do a job like this? Aren’t you scared? It’s a man’s job.’
“But I think this job takes a certain type of person; I am a compassionate person, I respect the dead and show utter respect and dignity for families in their time of loss.
“Statistically, the male passes away before the female. These women claim to be fiercely independent, know what they want and work hard to get it or provide if for their family, yet I hear these working women, who are managing the whole house and family, holding the purse strings and making all the buying decisions - when it comes to signing their own will, the women stop and the antiquated Victorian attitude of ‘the man pays and takes care’ comes out,” she adds.
I do wonder if this will ever change. Women and men have equality in most things these days but in some things, there is evidently still a big divide.
I can’t help wondering if there always will be.
For more information about Belle and her services, visit her website at www.bellepari.co.uk .