Sheryl Sandberg wants you to Lean In, but won’t pay you if you’re an intern

Well this isn’t looking great for Sheryl Sandberg.

The Facebook COO and author of the national bestseller “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” which encourages women to ask for more and get ahead in the workplace apparently doesn’t want them to lean in too much, lest they start demanding to be paid as interns.

As Sam Biddle reported on Gawker’s Valleywag blog , an editor from Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation posted a job opening on Facebook for an unpaid intern to work at the organization, which is a non-profit that seeks to empower women in the workplace. Paying them however, is a different matter.

The posting, by editor-at-large Jessica Bennett reads: 

“Wanted: Lean In editorial intern to work with our editor (me). Part-time, unpaid, must be HIGHLY organized with editorial and social chops and able to commit to a regular schedule through end of year. Design and web skills a plus! HIT ME UP. Start date ASAP.” 

The backlash was swift, with many commenters on the post calling out Sandberg on the hypocrisy of encouraging women to “lean in” and demand more money and satisfaction out of their jobs, yet refusing to pay an intern even minimum wage.

The whole thing seemed even more odious by the fact that Sandberg recently made $90 million by selling off some of her Facebook shares, and that’s on top of her salary, and money earned from book sales and speaking engagements, her profitable second career as a spokesperson for empowering women in the workplace.

So far Sandberg and Facebook have not responded directly to the criticism, although the Lean In foundation issued a statement saying, “LeanIn.Org, like many nonprofits, has enjoyed the participation of part-time volunteers to help us advance our education and peer support programs.” 

Bennett attempted damage control by deleting the post, and later she returned with this explanation, 

“Dear What Appears to Be My Entire Facebook Feed: Want to clarify previous Lean In post. This was MY post, on MY feed, looking for a volunteer to help me in New York. LOTS of nonprofits accept volunteers. This was NOT an official Lean In Job posting. Let’s all take a deep breath.”

Looks like Bennett took the fall on this one, but it’ll be interesting to see how Sandberg responds, if she does at all. It’ll be frustrating if she dismisses this with yet another “standard practice” excuse when she has an opportunity as a known voice in the industry to really contribute to the debate about unpaid internships. 



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