Facebook billionaire Sheryl Sandberg is facing criticism after it emerged that her Lean In foundation, a non-profit that ‘encourages women to pursue their ambitions’, was seeking an unpaid intern.
Sandberg, who recently sold shares in the social network site worth $91m (£59m), set up the foundation following the publication of a book of the same name.
‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ aimed to bolster female ambition and confidence in the workplace, as well as attacking the numerous disparities between support for men and women in the corporate world.
The ad asking for an unpaid intern was posted on Facebook by Jessica Bennett:
“Wanted: Lean In editorial intern, to work with our editor (me) in New York. 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.”
Bennett later explained that the position would be working for her directly:
“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.”
Whilst the argument that nonprofits often need volunteers to operate is true, not all nonprofits are founded and run by individuals with quite so much personal wealth as Sheryl Sandberg.
A blog from Slate on the topic also pointed out that whilst not all unpaid internships are necessarily exploitative their existence continually impedes social mobility. A quotation from the Economic Policy Institute explains:
“Unpaid internships, in particular, exclude students from poorer families who can’t afford to work for nothing […] The children of affluent families, on the other hand, can afford to live in the most expensive cities in the U.S., such as New York and Washington, making contacts, building their resumes, and sometimes even learning skills, while their parents pay for their room and board, travel and entertainment.”