Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In interns will pick up paychecks after all

In  move that you could see coming from a couple of miles away, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In outfit says it won’t make interns work for free after all.

Glad that’s over. Now we can all go back to debating whether Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer should have opted for a spread in Fortune over the breezy, photo-filled piece in Vogue. 

Maybe you remember way back yesterday when Facebook’s Sandberg faced a firestorm (OK, a flare-up) of criticism, because the outfit she founded to encourage women to succeed was on the hunt for an intern that would do heavy-lifting for six months for free.

The thinking? An outfit started by a woman who hauled in $91 million last week, shouldn’t be seeking free labor this week.

After some hemming and hawing and a row back that clarified nothing, Rachel Thomas, Lean In’s president, finally said clearly that the organization would pay interns, once it actually started hiring interns. On Lean In’s Facebook page, Thomas wrote in part:

“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.”

Brava.

It’s the sort of response Lean In should have posted about two seconds after the first blog posts about the organization’s lean toward indentured servitude hit the Web.

And here’s the other thing: I don’ t mean to be overly demanding, but as I wrote yesterday, Sandberg should be addressing this mess head-on. (The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor thinks so, too.) It’s an opportunity to show what Leaning In is all about.

When you see something that is unfair or exploitive, don’t  just lean. Instead, stand up and speak out. Do what you can to make things right.

OK, back to Vogue.

(Photo of Sheryl Sandberg by Reuters)

Mike Cassidy Mike Cassidy (173 Posts)

I write about the culture of Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News.