Sheryl Sandberg's Foundation Under Fire For Seeking Unpaid Intern [UPDATE]

The Lean In foundation is criticized as "elitist and exploitative." Ouch.

Sheryl Sandberg backlash Last month, when a court ruled that Fox Searchlight should have paid its interns, there were many predicting that it would mean the death to unpaid internships. In fact, several media companies have quietly moved to paid internships.

Which is why it was so stunning to see that an editor at the Lean In Foundation, Sheryl Sandberg's pet project dedicated to empowering women, is looking to hire a "highly organized" editorial intern with "editorial and social chops" who would be, you guessed it, unpaid.

ValleyWag, which broke the story, notes that Jessica Bennett, editor at the Lean In Foundation, tried to delete the Facebook posting made yesterday, after she received a flood of criticism.

UPDATE: August 15, 10 am EDT: Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the foundation, emailed 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 later posted a message on Facebook, stressing that this was not an official Lean In job posting. "This was MY post, looking for a volunteer to help me in New York. LOTS of nonprofits accept volunteers."

That didn't seem to quell the outrage. "Disgraceful, elitist and exploitative," was a typical response. As one poster noted, "I run a non-profit with a ~$20k programming budget. And my interns get paid a dollar above MA minimum wage (mostly Smith College women). You have no excuse."

UPDATE: August 16, 9:40 a.m. EDT:'s president Rachel Thomas posted a Facebook message late Thursday, conceding that the Bennett's posting didn't fall "within's definition" of a volunteer. Thomas vowed to create a paid internship program. "We support equality - and that includes fair pay - and we'll continue to push for change in our own organization and our broader community."

Here's the original posting made by Bennett, via Valleywag:

Sandberg made $91 million last year, Valleywag notes. Many of the comments to Bennett were harshly critical. "To not pay your intern for an organization and job like this is not only laughable, but mostly pathetic. Do better," one wrote.

Read, "The Faces Behind Facebook."

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I think companies should charge these "interns" for their on-the-job-training; kind of like a trade school tuition

August 18 2013 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To me it's real simple. IF you don't want to take an unpaid intern position then don't. No one is forcing anyone to take a position like this. And if some one wants to take the position then it's non of anyone else's business.

August 18 2013 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is so typical. I did two unpaid internships. It was considered the standard of practice. Student teachers don't get paid and they "work" for one to two semesters. It's always a choice to take an unpaid internship, though for some of us, it was the only way to complete the required course work. And neither of my internships provided for a job guarantee at the end. If someone were offering me a job guarantee at the end if the internship was successful, I'd jump at the chance. But I guess in this entitlement mentality, this is just another one of those "entitlements' where the way things used to be just aren't good enough anymore. No one should have to earn anything, it should just be handed to them because they want it.

August 18 2013 at 11:25 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to d1anaw's comment

No, no one HAS to take an unpaid internship. But some of those internships are required for the completion of their course studies. And some internships are brutal, they work in abdominal conditions and are treated worse than someone in indentured servitude. I'm so sick of this "entitlement" argument, I can't begin to tell you. People like you are all for entitlements...multi-million dollar inheritances, being installed in executive positions that you didn't earn only because your parents own the company, being given mansions, private jets and expensive cars, but only if it's for the wealthy. However some kid just barely making it needs to be paid. And it's a catch 22 because some internships lead to making connections and jobs and if you don't have a internship on your resume it looks bad to some potential employers in certain industries. You see, every student does not have mommy and daddy waiting in the wings paying their credit cards, insurance and keeping a roof over their heads, food on the table and clothes on their backs. Most people need to be paid for the job that they do. Rarely does an internship now entail mentoring and learning specific job skills. These employers want cheap labor and they work some of those interns to death. If you do a job, then you need to get paid for it.

August 18 2013 at 6:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The call it "greed"!

August 16 2013 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Typical. Her's yet another elitist Dem born of privilege and well to-do getting educated at Harvard with net worth of at least $417 million, with cash readily available to her increasing by $91 million a few days ago asking for and expecting a highly qualified person to work for free at her company. Another Dem with a double-standard and pretends to help and understand the needs and difficulties of the average woman - What a joke!

August 16 2013 at 7:08 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Michael's comment

This has nothing to do with political affiliations, this has to do with if a person does a job, they need to get paid. These employers want cheap labor and many of those internships are akin to indentured servitude. Those interns do far more than what they are supposed to do and work in deplorable conditions. That was what the lawsuit was about with Fox Searchlight. Those interns were put in physical danger and no intern should ever have to risk their life for a future employment they may or may not get. Then they were intimidated and threatened as far as being black-balled in the industry. And I'm absolutely horrified that this woman would post a job for an unpaid intern when she makes that kind of money. She could pay an intern out of her lunch money alone.

August 18 2013 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

SherylS made $91 milliion, and won't pay a few $k to a talented intern???
That's pathetic, and it destroys Sandberg's credibility FOREVER.

August 14 2013 at 8:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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