Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Foundation Creates Controversy With Unpaid-Internship Post

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Sheryl Sandberg

Critics have bashed the organization on social media, suggesting that its message of empowering women shouldn't mean people have to work for free.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Foundation has found itself at the center of an online controversy after it posted an ad for unpaid interns.

On Tuesday, Lean In editorial director Jessica Bennett posted the following message on Facebook: "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."

Facebook commenters quickly seized on the "unpaid" part of the ad, with one writing, " 'Lean In’ means use your skills to work for free? #clueless.”

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The organization works to empower women and help them achieve their goals. Its name was inspired by the title of Sandberg's best-selling book, which encourages women to take charge of their careers, including by asking for fair pay.

The controversy even spilled over onto Twitter, with critics writing, "So ladies - who wants to Lean In to an unpaid internship for Madam Moneybags?" and "Lean in and bend over."

Bennett later responded to the firestorm, posting another status update to her Facebook page, writing:  “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.”

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Lean In's president, Rachel Thomas, also posted a Facebook update in which she said the organization was planning 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 broader community," she wrote.

A 22-year-old grad student has also started a petition calling on Sandberg to require Lean In to pay its interns, saying she'd love to work for the organization but cannot afford to do so for free. The petition has already received 536 signatures.

Sandberg recently sold $91 million worth of Facebook stock, according to reports.