I don’t believe in the concept of, “Leaning In” more than I believe in not paying interns what they are worth. After I read, “Lean In” I needed a mental shower to clean out all the buzz-worded entitlement that lingered in my brain from Sandberg’s trite, idyllic, writings. I too could “Lean In,” if I had a man at home, an ivy-league education and a penchant for doing things only one way.
“The memoir and novel are masked in quiet judgement and out-of-touch reality in a nation that is struggling to create new jobs and flatten unemployment rates. Sandberg’s, “truth” is her truth alone, forged by insights, realities and memories from her past experiences and knowledge. In true transparency I absolutely am aware of the wage gap and fight for equality online and off. I consider myself extremely versed in this concept from a Human Resources standpoint as well as that of a vocal journalist. But I also know, I’m not done asking questions. I have so much more to learn.”
It came out earlier this week that someone from Sheryl Sandberg’s camp posted a non-paid intern position at her non-profit. Because truly, the only way to advance women and get them to, “Lean In,” is to pay them- absolutely nothing. I wrote in mid-June that interns deserve payment not only because it is illegal to not pay them a fair wage, but because it is cultural suicide to make people work for free. There are extremely strict rules in most states, (as well as at the federal level) that dictate exactly what internships must provide. The Department of Labor, offers a great tip-sheet on internships and what classifies an “unpaid” vs. a “paid” internship. You can see it here.
The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each such program. The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:
1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to
training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern;
and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the
I often say, “you are what you tweet.” Sandberg is no exception to my golden rule of online media. Sandberg’s mission statement for her, “Lean In” foundation, might be surprising: “Lean In is committed to offering women the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals.” Just remember, when we support a foundation that breathes such unabashed in-authenticity, we become part of the problem; all fluff, buzzwords and trite language aside.
After the post flared tempers on the internet, Lean In courageously stated that they would be forming a paid internship program, (ie: they said they’d follow the law.) Business Insider spoke that after the unpaid intern scandal broke, that Sandberg and the leadership team changed their minds on free labor:
“As a startup, we haven’t had a formal internship program. Moving forward we plan to, and it will be paid. We support equality – and that includes fair pay – and we’ll continue to push for change in our own organization and our broader community.”
Paying interns has a direct effect on the economy and helps for better dividends in tax collection. Paid interns earn higher wages than their unpaid counterparts, the National Association of Colleges and Employers stated in a recent infographic.
TL;DR: If you start a movement, BE the movement. Don’t allow a lack of integrity to ruin your brand before it even begins. I call that, “Sandberg-ing.”