Men are deterred from becoming primary teachers because they fear being labelled "closet paedophiles", Birmingham's head of education claimed.
Councillor Les Lawrence said society needed to change its outlook and stop "demonising" men who sought to work with young children.
The warning from Coun Lawrence, Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for education, came as the local authority considers plans to discriminate against women in favour of men applying for teaching jobs, particularly at primary level where 83 per cent of teachers are female.
Coun Lawrence said: "The only way you are going to put more men into the early years is to positively discriminate so you can get the balance up.
"But it also requires a subtle change in society to realise that actually men working with children is not something to be criticised.
"This constant demonisation of young men as closet paedophiles has created a fear which in many cases is totally inappropriate.
"It is quite bizarre that a man can have a young family but if he then steps outside that accepted norm and seeks to work in an early years or reception class then, I would argue because of overt media demonisation of such men, people view that as not quite the same."
Coun Lawrence added that in a city like Birmingham there was a particular need to address the imbalance.
"Given the nature of family structures these days where you don't have male role models to learn from, it is important that in our children centres, nurseries and schools there are men employed to ensure that role model factor is catered for," he said.
Sean Neil, senior lecturer in education at Warwick University, claimed research backed up concern that men were being put off entering primary schools for fear of being labelled perverts.
"Among students here, one of the concerns that men thinking of going into primary schools have is that they may be accused of going in there with alternative motives," he said.
"The assumption is as an unchecked male, you are a suspicious character."
Results from GCSE exams taken by Birmingham pupils during the summer show boys continue to lag behind girls by ten per cent in terms of attainment.
Coun Lawrence said having more positive male role models in the teaching profession was one way of helping address the imbalance and measures needed to be put in place to promote it.
"We need to have a workforce as diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender as possible.
"In early years and primaries, for a period of time, that requires us to positively discriminate to encourage men into the profession."
Lawyers have warned plans to discriminate against women applying for jobs in Birmingham could land the authority in court over anti-discrimination laws.
Acas, the employment arbitration service, maintained it was acceptable to encourage people from under-represented groups but would be unlawful to positively discriminate.