SAN FRANCISCO -- Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org foundation is in hot water after its top editor tried to lean on an unpaid intern.
The trouble began when the foundation’s editorial maven Jessica Bennett posted on Facebook that she was looking for a “HIGHLY organized” intern “with editorial and social chops” to work part-time for her in New York.
Sandberg commands widespread respect in Silicon Valley for her leadership at Google and Facebook and for her efforts to empower women here. But some of the feedback on Bennett’s unpaid internship offer –- especially after the post was outed by Sam Biddle at Valleywag –- was not friendly.
Critics were quick to point out that Sandberg has launched a successful second career as a champion of advancing women in the workplace, prodding them to demand more respect and more money with her national bestseller “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” (Not to mention that Facebook’s billion-dollar executive also cashed in $91 million of stock last week.)
“Unpaid work, be it internships for young women or volunteer positions for older moms, is exploitive. Shame on lean in. Pay up,” Michele Morris posted in the comments on Facebook.
The fury vented on Facebook prompted Bennett to explain herself late Wednesday:
“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.”
LeanIn.org apparently does not maintain a formal internship program.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Lean In, said in a statement: “LeanIn.Org, like many nonprofits, has enjoyed the participation of part-time volunteers to help us advance our education and peer support programs.”
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment from Sandberg.