Lean In Foundation Seeks Unpaid Intern, Internet Goes Bananas

Yeesh. No matter where you fall in the debate on paid vs. unpaid internships, you have to feel a little bad for Jessica Bennett. The Lean In Foundation editor posted a job listing on Tuesday, looking for an unpaid intern. She quickly deleted it — but not before the citizens of the internet picked up on it and made their feelings known.


(Photo Credit: Pete Simon/Flickr)

You can read the full story at Valleywag, but the short version is:

1. Jessica Bennett, editor-at-large for the Lean In Foundation, posted a listing on Twitter and Facebook, looking for an unpaid intern.

2. Everyone nicely pointed out the irony of the Lean In Foundation asking interns to work without pay, especially since Sheryl Sandberg made $91 million just last week. And by nicely we mean “with pitchforks and torches” and “pointed out” we mean “screamed in all-caps and/or asked when slavery was made legal again.”

3. Bennett deleted the posting, while sort of defending it in another post on Facebook, and definitely disassociating it from Sandberg. Everyone on both networks and various blogs started throwing pies.

Sample tweets from the brouhaha:

“Why does lean in offer an unpaid internship? Really? I thought women should lean in and demand more money.”

“You have to be kidding! How much money has Sheryl made from the book + fb stock? Shameful.”

(It should be noted, however, that — judging by Valleywag’s screenshot — for every scolding tweet, there were three tweets that were some variation on “hit me up!”)

When Bennett deleted the listing on Twitter and posted an explanation, of sorts, on her Facebook account, the responses were similar. First, her post:

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.

Perhaps smelling blood in the water, her followers responded even more negatively than they had to the original tweet. A sample comment on her post that expresses most of the general tenor of the other 200-plus comments:

“You seem like a genuinely terrible person.”

This is, of course, the worst thing anyone can say about you online, without mentioning Hitler.

Whether or not you think Bennett, Lean In, and/or Sheryl Sandberg have done anything wrong in this instance, it does bring up a valid question: should interns be paid, especially if they’re interning for organizations that can afford to float them a meager stipend? Commenters, companies, and the Department of Labor will have to keep hashing it out.

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