Two days ago, Jessica Bennett, an editorial director at LeanIn, an organization that supports, among other things, the advancement of women in the workplace, posted a note on Facebook for an unpaid intern. The call for unpaid help caused an uproar and even its own Change.org petition. Of the 278 comments on Bennett’s post, the vast majority were critical, scolding the organization, which champions women to seek out higher salaries, for seeking out unpaid labor.
ValleyWag grabbed the story, pointing out that LeanIn founder and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made $91 million just last week. Others quickly picked up the story.
Eventually, Bennett backtracked saying that actually she meant volunteer, not intern.
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.
Moments ago, however, LeanIn President Rachel Thomas clarified that when the company starts a “formal internship program” LeanIn will pay its interns.
She admits that “the posting that prompted this discussion was for a position that doesn’t fall within LeanIn.Org’s definition of a ‘volunteer.”
While the statement may offer some reassurance to LeanIn’s recent critics, Thomas’ statement never explicitly defines the duties of volunteer workers, leaving plenty of debate as to the difference between a “volunteer” and an “unpaid intern.”
Read Thomas’ full statement below: