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Posts tagged with ‘lean in’

An End To Unpaid Internships

Recent efforts by top schools in the US against unpaid internships might turn the tide on this practice, which has become just another way that US businesses get free labor, and at negligible education benefit to the interns:

Good Steps Against Unpaid Internships - NYTimes.com

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported last year that nearly half of the internships taken by college students in the class of 2013 were unpaid. Many of these arrangements (often temporary, low-level jobs with dubious educational merit) may violate federal labor guidelines, which say that unpaid internships at for-profit companies must be “for the benefit of the intern” and that the employer may not derive an “immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.” Yet colleges, through their career sites, frequently end up promoting internships that disregard these guidelines.

Two prominent universities in New York recently announced that they were tightening their policies on unpaid internships. In February, New York University said it would explicitly instruct employers posting on its job site to follow the Labor Department’s guidelines and to indicate that they are in compliance. (The university also clarified that it weeds out obvious noncompliant postings.)

Columbia University already had a similar warning on its career site. Last month, it said it would stop giving out “registration credit” (R credit) to students in internships. Those credits did not count toward a degree, and mostly functioned as a fig leaf for employers, who could pretend that the credit somehow justified not paying for a student’s work.

Columbia’s new policy brings it into line with other Ivy League colleges like Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth that do not give R credits, and ahead of many other universities. In the past few years, exploited interns have started suing their employers, and a high-profile case against Fox Searchlight Pictures was decided last year in the plaintiffs’ favor. But American universities have largely stayed quiet or even defended the practice. On this issue, Columbia and N.Y.U. are setting good examples.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the internship practice has been its bleeding over into the world of college graduates or the ranks of non-collegiate workers. Now an established business practice, but starting to decline, after the peak internship moment last year when gazillionaire Sheryl Sandburg’s non-profit was advertising for an unpaid intern to help promote her book, Lean In.

The minimum wage exists for a simple reason: low-paid working class people have little individual bargaining power. The same is true of college student or young workers in general, hoping to get the first step on a career. But the government today is caught with its shoelaces tied together, seemingly incapable to take the simplest steps to protect those without power. I’m glad to see these universities setting the bar higher, and forcing companies to do the right thing.

Where industrial capitalism had driven women as a group to mobilize to change society, its consumer variant induced individual women to submit, each seemingly of her own free will, to a mass-produced culture. They were then encouraged to call that submission liberation. This is the mode that much of American feminism has been stuck in ever since, despite attempts by late-1960s radical feminists to dismantle the female consumer armament of cosmetics, girdles, and hair spray. (The dismantling became quite literal in the 1968 demonstration against the Miss America Pageant, where young radicals hurled “instruments of female torture” into a “Freedom Trash Can.”)

In the postindustrial economy, feminism has been retooled as a vehicle for expression of the self, a “self” as marketable consumer object, valued by how many times it’s been bought—or, in our electronic age, how many times it’s been clicked on. “Images of a certain kind of successful woman proliferate,” British philosopher Nina Power observed of contemporary faux-feminism in her 2009 book, One-Dimensional Woman. “The city worker in heels, the flexible agency employee, the hard-working hedonist who can afford to spend her income on vibrators and wine—and would have us believe that—yes—capitalism is a girl’s best friend.”

Susan Faludi, Facebook Feminism, Like It or Not

Faludi’s critique of the Lean In movement positions it as nothing more than indoctrinating women to work harder, and if that doesn’t lead to personal success they have only themselves to blame. She quotes Kate Losse who said in Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning In?,

Life is a race, Sandberg is telling us, and the way to win is through the perpetual acceleration of one’s own labor: moving forward, faster. The real antagonist identified by Lean In then is not institutionalized discrimination against women, but women’s reluctance to accept accelerating career demands.

Especially damning is the list of corporate supporters of Lean In that have a seemingly endless series of lawsuits brought by women seeking redress to inequities in the workplace.

Faludi is implicitly calling for solidarity, an awareness among women in the workforce that they share common problems and should find common cause. However, we are in a time when solidarity is increasingly elusive, for any group or community. And faux solidarity, engendered by a small elite for the sake of their personal advancement, is no help and may in fact form an impediment to true solidarity, or its postnormal analogue, fluidarity.

Go read the whole piece.

Sheryl Sandberg is soliciting for an unpaid intern to help promote her Lean In book. She made $91M the other day on Facebook stock sales, so couldn’t she at least pay minimum wage?
(via Revealed: Sheryl Sandberg’s Unpaid Intern Disgrace)

Sheryl Sandberg is soliciting for an unpaid intern to help promote her Lean In book. She made $91M the other day on Facebook stock sales, so couldn’t she at least pay minimum wage?

(via Revealed: Sheryl Sandberg’s Unpaid Intern Disgrace)


Kate Losse, Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning in?
Life is a race, Sandberg is telling us, and the way to win is through the perpetual acceleration of one’s own labor: moving forward, faster. The real antagonist identified by Lean In then is not institutionalized discrimination against women, but women’s reluctance to accept accelerating career demands.
If resistance to working harder is the problem, then it follows that work, in Sandberg’s book, is a solution. Work will save us; but, the reader may be asking, from what? By taking note of the forms of human activity that do not appear in Lean In, we see that what work will save us from is not-work: pleasure and other nonproductive pastimes. “Framing the issue as work-life balance—as if the two were diametrically opposed—almost ensures that work will lose out,” Sandberg writes. In response to the threat of work losing out, she goes on to outline how one transforms one’s life entirely into work. There is no not-work, or pleasure, inLean In. Aside from the possibility of having better sex with one’s husband after he has assisted with household chores (work makes everything better, including sex!), Sandberg does not mention pleasure. Sandberg assumes instead that the feminist question is simply, how can I be a more successful worker?
Take Sandberg’s perspective on the family.  A successful working mother on the Sandberg model awakes at 5:00 a.m. to answer emails before preparing kids for school, returns home for dinner with her kids (which, like her job, is a duty the mother has to be promptly on time for), and then gets back into her email. “Once he was down at night, I would jump back on my computer and continue my workday,” she writes, acknowledging the fact that, by Silicon Valley’s own hand, “technology has extended the weekday.”
At this point in the text, what could become a critique of the new economy’s round-the-clock work imperative becomes its opposite: resignation to work’s all-consuming nature. “Facebook is available 24/7 and for the most part, so am I. The days when I even think of unplugging for a weekend or a vacation are long gone.”
For someone with fewer family demands than Sandberg, freedom is depicted not as a pleasure but a problem to be resolved by getting a family. The single woman goes out to a bar goes not to have fun or be with friends (the main reason most women I know attend a bar), but to find a husband with whom to procreate. “My coworkers should understand that I need to go to a party tonight…because going to a party is the only way I might meet someone and start a family!” Astonishingly for a book published in 2013, there are no self-identified lesbians, gay men, or even intentionally unmarried or child-free people in Lean In’s vision of the workplace. It’s not clear why Sandberg thinks that everyone should be in the business of getting a family, since the book argues that family gets in the way of work. But it seems that Sandberg can only imagine the dreaded “leaning back” as a product of family demands. Who would take a vacation voluntarily?
Life, in Sandberg’s vision of work, has gone entirely missing, at the linguistic as well as the polemical level. Except, of course, when one is at work. “I fully believe in bringing our whole selves to work,” Sandberg writes. Since her vision of work involves working all the time, it follows that work must be the place where one can be one’s full self.


Leaninism will have its adherents, but I am not among them. I subscribe to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s gentle criticism of Lean In:

Sandberg’s approach, as important as it is, is at best half a loaf. Moreover, given her positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. For both the women who have made it and the men who work with them, it is cheaper and more comfortable to believe that what they need to do is simply urge younger women to be more like them, to think differently and negotiate more effectively, rather than make major changes in the way their companies work. Young women might be much more willing to lean in if they saw better models and possibilities of fitting work and life together: ways of slowing down for a while but still staying on a long-term promotion track; of getting work done on their own time rather than according to a fixed schedule; of being affirmed daily in their roles both as parents and as professionals.

(h/t gracemcdunnough)
Kate LosseFeminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning in?

Life is a race, Sandberg is telling us, and the way to win is through the perpetual acceleration of one’s own labor: moving forward, faster. The real antagonist identified by Lean In then is not institutionalized discrimination against women, but women’s reluctance to accept accelerating career demands.

If resistance to working harder is the problem, then it follows that work, in Sandberg’s book, is a solution. Work will save us; but, the reader may be asking, from what? By taking note of the forms of human activity that do not appear in Lean In, we see that what work will save us from is not-work: pleasure and other nonproductive pastimes. “Framing the issue as work-life balance—as if the two were diametrically opposed—almost ensures that work will lose out,” Sandberg writes. In response to the threat of work losing out, she goes on to outline how one transforms one’s life entirely into work. There is no not-work, or pleasure, inLean In. Aside from the possibility of having better sex with one’s husband after he has assisted with household chores (work makes everything better, including sex!), Sandberg does not mention pleasure. Sandberg assumes instead that the feminist question is simply, how can I be a more successful worker?

Take Sandberg’s perspective on the family.  A successful working mother on the Sandberg model awakes at 5:00 a.m. to answer emails before preparing kids for school, returns home for dinner with her kids (which, like her job, is a duty the mother has to be promptly on time for), and then gets back into her email. “Once he was down at night, I would jump back on my computer and continue my workday,” she writes, acknowledging the fact that, by Silicon Valley’s own hand, “technology has extended the weekday.”

At this point in the text, what could become a critique of the new economy’s round-the-clock work imperative becomes its opposite: resignation to work’s all-consuming nature. “Facebook is available 24/7 and for the most part, so am I. The days when I even think of unplugging for a weekend or a vacation are long gone.”

For someone with fewer family demands than Sandberg, freedom is depicted not as a pleasure but a problem to be resolved by getting a family. The single woman goes out to a bar goes not to have fun or be with friends (the main reason most women I know attend a bar), but to find a husband with whom to procreate. “My coworkers should understand that I need to go to a party tonight…because going to a party is the only way I might meet someone and start a family!” Astonishingly for a book published in 2013, there are no self-identified lesbians, gay men, or even intentionally unmarried or child-free people in Lean In’s vision of the workplace. It’s not clear why Sandberg thinks that everyone should be in the business of getting a family, since the book argues that family gets in the way of work. But it seems that Sandberg can only imagine the dreaded “leaning back” as a product of family demands. Who would take a vacation voluntarily?

Life, in Sandberg’s vision of work, has gone entirely missing, at the linguistic as well as the polemical level. Except, of course, when one is at work. “I fully believe in bringing our whole selves to work,” Sandberg writes. Since her vision of work involves working all the time, it follows that work must be the place where one can be one’s full self.

Leaninism will have its adherents, but I am not among them. I subscribe to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s gentle criticism of Lean In:

Sandberg’s approach, as important as it is, is at best half a loaf. Moreover, given her positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. For both the women who have made it and the men who work with them, it is cheaper and more comfortable to believe that what they need to do is simply urge younger women to be more like them, to think differently and negotiate more effectively, rather than make major changes in the way their companies work. Young women might be much more willing to lean in if they saw better models and possibilities of fitting work and life together: ways of slowing down for a while but still staying on a long-term promotion track; of getting work done on their own time rather than according to a fixed schedule; of being affirmed daily in their roles both as parents and as professionals.

(h/t gracemcdunnough)

Sandberg may mean well, and she may be setting up a run for national office. But she doesn’t understand the difference between a social movement and a social network marketing campaign. Just because digital technology makes connecting possible doesn’t mean you’re actually reaching people.

People come to a social movement from the bottom up, not the top down. Sandberg has co-opted the vocabulary and romance of a social movement not to sell a cause, but herself.

She says she’s using marketing for the purpose of social idealism. But she’s actually using social idealism for the purpose of marketing.

Maureen Dowd, in Pompom Girl for Feminism, pushes back on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.