Working women in Lansing Township drive civilian labor force

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Bath & Body Works employee, Abby Ciesalk poses for a photo as she discusses her employment experience in Lansing Township. Photo by Hannah Holliday.

Three years ago, Abby Ciesalk was entering her sophomore year at Michigan State University. She was on the job hunt like many students always are and went looking around for applications to fill out.

Bath & Body Works employee, Abby Ciesalk poses for a photo as she discusses her employment experience in Lansing Township. Photo by Hannah Holliday.

Bath & Body Works employee, Abby Ciesalk poses for a photo as she discusses her employment experience in Lansing Township. Photo by Hannah Holliday.

“I’d never worked in retail before but I just needed like a simple part time job to do during school,” Ciesalk said. “So I just applied to places around my area, [Eastwood Towne Center] is like 10 minutes from my apartment, so I kind of applied out of convenience at first.”

She found the perfect job at a Bath & Body Works located within Eastwood Towne Center, a shopping mall in Lansing Township.

Flash forward, Ciesalk will be graduating this spring and has continued working in the township for so long because of the people.

“Honestly, I’ve been here for like a few years,” Ciesalk said. “I really like it here. It’s not too hard, I like talking to people. The people that work here are all really nice.”

Bath & Body Works is just one example of a store located in Lansing Township where workers are predominately women.

From 2011 to 2015, 74.3 percent of the female population age 16 years or older in Lansing Township were in the civilian labor force, according to the United States Census Bureau. This is much higher than the state’s average of only 57.1 percent of its female population.

Women in Lansing Township have also found their way into opening their own businesses. In 2012, Lansing Township had 266 women-owned firms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Serge Desmarais, who is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Guelph, believes that women’s higher participation in the workforce can benefit a community and society at large.

“The fact that women can have a more fulfilling personal life and have greater economic power/control is a very good thing,” Desmarais said. “Having a job leads to greater independence, and that’s a good thing. Women historically tend to be interested in issues of great social relevance (child care, health, important social and public policies) and their participation in the workforce and in political and social processes has significant positive outcomes.”

Women who work in Lansing Township tend to make careers out of their part time jobs and those like Ciesalk, have a high chance of demonstrating employee longevity within a company.

“Most of [our employees] are actually out of college,” Ciesalk said. “There’s only me and a couple other girls that work here that are still in school and we are graduating soon anyways. And then its girls who are probably just out of college. The store manager and assistant manager are older like in their later twenties.”

Bath & Body Works is an American retailer where full time jobs can be acquired. Both the store manager and assistant manager have made successful careers out of working for the company, Ciesalk said.

According to Desmarais, education is another big factor when it comes to women’s employment.

From 2011 to 2015, 31.3 percent of Lansing Township persons’ age 25 years or older have obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is in contrast to Michigan’s average of 26.9 percent.

“I would argue that the spike of women entering the workforce, as you framed it, would be the result of economic conditions where jobs traditionally held by men are unbillable whereas jobs requiring more education have become somewhat more available,” Desmarais said. “Over the past 20 years, women have been going to colleges and universities at higher rates than men and this is an asset in a knowledge-base economy.”

The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing might also be another big contributor as to why Lansing Township women, both older and younger are reentering the civilian labor force.

According to their website, the center is a private non-profit organization that has served and offered support to more than 1,000 women.

“Depending on who the person is when she comes in, we start there,” Cindie Alwood, co-founder and co-director of the center said. “So if she has a resume we start with the resume, we talk to her about you know what she wants to do, what her interests are what her job history is. Does she need to brush up on her skills, does she need additional training.”

The center also offers counseling services, a professional clothes closet and specific workshops that help women overcome barriers.

A map showing the location of the Women's Center of Greater Lansing. The center helps women from all over the area, including Lansing Township find employment opportunities as well as counseling services. Source: Hannah Holliday via: Google Maps.

A map showing the location of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing. The center helps women from all over area, including Lansing Township find employment opportunities as well as counseling services. Source: Hannah Holliday via: Google Maps.

Alwood confirms that many clients find success within their programs if their goals are clearly defined.

“You know if their goal is to get a job, any job they could probably do that,” Alwood said. “If their goal is to build a career that is going to take a bit longer and it may involve taking a job that’s not where they exactly want to be today but we will get them their eventually. So it kind of depends on how you define success.”

The center has seen changes in what kind of women walk through their door. While older women used to make a majority of their clientele, the center has seen a recent surge of younger women seeking their services.

“When we first opened 12 years ago, we had more women who had stayed home to raise their families and then for whatever reason decided they wanted to reenter the workforce,” Alwood said. “Today I would say we have more women who are younger who still have kids at home who need to work. So it’s a little bit different in that the kids are still there they are not ready to graduate from college or anything big but they need to go to work they are not able to stay home, they need to find a job of some kind.“

Linda Stockton who is an associate professor of marketing at McMaster University said that more women entering a workforce could be a reality because of more options for childcare.

“If a woman continues to manage the family as well as taking on work outside the home they get stretched and likely feel more stress,” Stockton said. “Some have alleviated this by hiring live in children care workers (like nannies) and other may have been better at sharing the family duties with their spouses or significant others.”