Why Working Women’s Advocate Ivanka Trump Is Facing Controversy
When Ivanka Trump took the stage at the Republican National Convention in July, she did so as both a longtime partner in her father Donald’s enterprises and a businesswoman in her own right. Her speech on July 21 seemed in many ways more about her own interests than her father’s, though she was apparently speaking about him. In it, she called her father “color blind and gender neutral” and spent a significant amount of time on the many impediments women face in the workforce, from harassment to the gender pay gap. She claimed throughout her speech that her father was the best presidential candidate to deal with these issues.
Donald Trump, however, as candidate for president, has not seemed overly concerned with sexism. (He’s got a fairly lax approach to many aspects of his campaign!) But women in the workplace is a cornerstone of Ivanka’s burgeoning empire; it’s a frequent subject on her website, the Women Who Work initiative is her “signature” and she even has a book on the subject coming out next March. It’s fairly safe to assume that Ivanka Trump is aware of working women’s issues! And that safe assumption is exactly why many people were so perplexed when it became obvious that not only does Ivanka not pay her interns (a fairly common practice that’s nonetheless losing favor), but she also doesn’t seem to view that as a contradiction to her stated focus on working conditions. In fact, a post written for ivankatrump.com by intern Quincy Bulin bore the headline “How to Survive As an Unpaid Intern.”
Among the recommendations are “take on a part-time job,” “save up during the school year,” and “set a budget for yourself.” Of course, those are solid tips if you do find yourself spending a summer working for no pay. But amid all the helpful suggestions, the post fails to mention some pretty relevant info. For instance, Ivanka Trump’s businesses are hugely profitable — her clothing line alone made $100 million last year — which calls into question why, exactly, she needs to rely on unpaid labor from young women as she makes a name for herself stressing the importance of treating women properly in the workplace. There’s ample evidence that unpaid internships are not the foot in the door they’re touted as — a way of paying one’s dues while securing future job prospects. And women are WAY more likely to do a stint as an unpaid intern than men are: 77 percent more likely, to be exact. That kind of makes unpaid interning look like a “women in the workplace” issue that someone like Ivanka Trump would be concerned with, no?
So far, Ivanka hasn’t responded to questions about the situation. Her chief brand officer wrote to Forbes, “It is our goal that at the end of the program, our interns leave with experiences that will help guide them into choosing a fulfilling career path,” but otherwise, little has been said.
The public backlash regarding unpaid internships is somewhat new, but has been growing swiftly. And in an election campaign that brought discussions of wealth inequality to the fore, and in which a presidential candidate championed the grassroots campaign to make the minimum wage one people can actually live on, it’s an especially bad time to be caught saying something positive about pay equity while actions tell a different story.
Have you ever done an unpaid internship? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photos via Jeff Swensen + Alex Wong/Getty)