“For a single seminar, the difference might not sound overly large, but if you get interrupted 12 percent more every time you present over the course of your career, that certainly could have an effect,” Modestino says. “The cumulative effect of these disadvantages could be particularly damaging to a woman’s career.”

A woman who has had “particularly demoralizing” experiences at seminars, or on whom the cumulative effect of repeated, hostile questioning has been especially demanding, may simply choose not to attend economic seminars, or may leave the field altogether, Modestino says.

She is concerned about the brainpower that’s being lost to other disciplines if women are discouraged from entering economics, noting that women tend to focus on areas such as education and healthcare, while men tend to focus on finance and macroeconomics.

“We’re missing out on expanding the breadth of our research and influencing policy that really matters for people’s lives,” Modestino says.

Modestino and her colleagues plan to continue studying such long-term implications, but hope that this first step—collecting hard data that illustrates the differences in how women and men are treated in the field—will be the start of a “culture-shift,” she says.

“These findings speak to the implicit bias that’s in the profession,” Modestino says. “There is definitely a #MeToo movement in economics seminars.”

For media inquiries, please contact Shannon Nargi at s.nargi@northeastern.edu or 617-373-5718.