Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

Washington - Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, has spoken out about the importance of teaching young girls to be leaders as early as possible in their lives.

“We start telling little girls not to lead at a really young age and we start to tell boys to lead at a very young age. That is a mistake,” the US technology executive said.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Sandberg said: “I believe everyone has inside them the ability to lead and we should let people choose that’s not based on their gender but on who they are and who they want to be.”

One of the first steps was “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.”

In a tribute to strong, powerful women, Sandberg chose Beyoncé’s Run The World (Girls) as her first song on the popular radio programme.

She also chose Queen’s You’re My Best Friend, which was dedicated to Sandberg’s close women friends who helped her cope with bereavement.

In 2015, her husband of 11 years, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly while they were on holiday in Mexico.

She was the one who found him unconscious on the floor of a gym after he had suffered a heart attack.

To cope with her grief, she wrote her second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, explaining her grief in dealing with her loss.

In the book she includes stories about women’s endurance, including Malala Yousafzai, the 19-year-old Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace laureate.

Sandberg, who has been Facebook’s chief operating officer since 2008, is worth a reputed $1.71 billion (R22.5bn), according to Forbes.

She shot to fame in 2013 for her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which she describes as a “sort of feminist manifesto”.

Her TED (technology, entertainment, design) talk which encouraged women to “sit at the table” was viewed more than six million times.

Sandberg also founded Leanin.org, a non-profit organisation that offers advice for women on how to be a role model for young girls as well as being a work place ally.