31/07/2017 10:05 AM AEST | Updated 31/07/2017 10:06 AM AEST

Sheryl Sandberg Says We Have A Problem 'Telling Little Girls Not To Lead'

Ruben Sprich / Reuters
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

While Sheryl Sandberg has long called on corporations to close the gender pay gap and promote more women to senior positions, the Facebook Chief Operating Officer said Sunday that women are discouraged from seeking leadership roles much earlier in life. 

In an interview for BBC Radio 4′s Desert Island Discs ― a show in which guests choose the music they would take with them to a desert island ― Sandberg paid tribute to her mother and grandmother as powerful female role models for her growing up.

Their encouragements were integral to her success, she said, but aren’t the examples all young girls receive. 

“What I really believe is, we start telling little girls not to lead at very young ages, and we start telling little boys to lead at very young ages, and that’s a mistake,” she said. “I believe everyone has inside them the ability to lead, and we should let people choose that, not based on gender, but on who they are and who they want to be.”

She selected Beyoncé’s “Run The World (Girls)” as her first desert island song.

“Beyoncé’s message that women can run the world, that women should run the world, her message that she’s the boss ― I think is super important for not just women, but little girls and boys to hear.” 

We should support women early on in tandem with demanding workplaces be free of gender discrimination, Sandberg continued. 

“We need to start paying women well, and we need the public and the corporate policy to get there,” she said. “Certainly, women applying for jobs at the same rate as men, women running for office at the same rate as men, that has got to be part of the answer.”

American women face a pay gap in every single state and lose out on a combined total of more than $840 billion each year, on average, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Overall, women employed full time, year-round in the U.S. earn 80 cents for every dollar men earn ― and it’s even worse for women of color

The problem is not exclusive to the U.S. Ironically, the channel that broadcast Sandberg’s interview, the BBC, recently disclosed a significant gender gap among its own on-air stars. According to the data it released earlier this month, women make up just one-third of on-air talent earning above 150,000 pounds (around $197,000). While the highest paid male BBC star earns between 2.2 million pounds and 2.5 million pounds a year, the highest paid woman earns just 450,000 to 500,000 pounds annually. 

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