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: Leanin.org's president Rachel Thomas posted a Facebook message late Thursday, conceding that the Bennett's posting didn't fall "within Leanin.org'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."