Liz Reid, one of only five women directors in Scotland, told the conference that there was "some evidence" of an upturn in the number of women in secondary promoted posts following the introduction of initiatives such as "women into management" courses.
But in Edinburgh, her own authority, 69 per cent of primary heads and deputes were women compared with only 19 per cent in secondary. "There is still much to be done," she conceded.
The only sector that is close to achieving a balance is special education, where 84.8 per cent of all teachers and 75.7 per cent of heads are women.
Mrs Reid also expressed concern at the small number of black and ethnic minority teachers and the even smaller numbers with physical and sensory difficulties. One Edinburgh secondary, she revealed, is to use work experience to encourage black pupils to consider a career in education.