Prejudice and hostile attitudes keep the upper echelons of classical music off-limits to many women, arts chief Jude Kelly has said.
The top of the profession is still “a place of too great an absence for women”, she said.
“Women still tell me they find orchestras can be hostile, can undermine them deliberately, that executive directors can be sceptical.”
Ms Kelly said deliberate decisions to promote female talent had to be taken.
“This is not about women doing it for themselves,” she said. “It’s about chaps who run orchestras and people who run music colleges getting behind women.”
“People tend to appoint in their own image. It’s a tendency of men to support other, younger men and feel paternalistic towards them.
“We have to encourage them to support women.”
Ms Kelly is the artistic director of the Southbank Centre, and was speaking at the launch of the institution’s 2014 – 15 season.
The programme is themed around contemporary classical music, including a four-month percussion festival and an adaptation of The Pied Piper of Hamlin from War Horse author Michael Morpurgo.
Daniel Barenboim will perform Schubert’s Piano Sonatas, while Sir Simon Rattle will lead an orchestra of children and amateur musicians at the Southbank’s Clore Ballroom.
Harrison Birtwistle is to premiere a new work to celebrate his 80th year, while Rachmaninoff’s complete symphonies and piano concertos will be performed in the Rachmaninoff: Inside Out series.
The season will also include work by several female composers including Stevie Wishart and Anna Clyne, as well as performances by leading female soloists Lisa Batiashvili (violin), Martha Argerich and Mitsuko Uchida (piano).
Alsop was singled out in Ms Kelly’s speech, after several prominent men queried her appointment as the first female conductor of the Last Night of the Proms last year.
Bruno Mantavani, head of the Paris Conservatoire, said most women would find conducting too “physically demanding”.
“Sometimes women are disheartened by the physical aspect,” he told France Musique. “Conducting, flying, conducting again is quite demanding.”
Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko also claimed orchestral musicians could be distracted by a female lead, saying that “a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things”.
Petrenko, who leads the National Youth Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, added that “when women have families, it becomes difficult to be as dedicated as is demanded in the business”.
He later published a clarification on the website of the Oslo Philharmonic, where he is also the principal conductor.
“What I said was meant to be a description of the situation in Russia, my homeland,” he said.
“I’d encourage any girl to study conducting. How successful they turn out to be depends on their talent and their work, definitely not their gender.
“I also want to add that my beloved wife is a choral conductor.”
Ms Kelly addressed the issue of childcare at the Southbank Centre launch.
“It’s a very important question. How do we take on board childcare and touring? And it isn’t just a female issue, or it won’t be in the future.
“If society wants women to reach their potential and contribute, society has to care about it.”