I’m in the process of writing a recommendation letter for a female student to be admitted to some honors program within the university.

She is fantastic and I assume that she will get admitted with or without my help, so my question isn’t necessarily specific to this particular letter, but I do remember feeling curious about this, so now’s a good time to ask, I guess!

It’s this one line in my letter that made me scratch my head a little bit. The line in question would like to say something like, “she is very interested in advancing women and other minorities in the STEM field,” which is a quality that I approve of heartily.

The problem is, I am not sure if everyone in academia feels the same way about this as I do. Perhaps there is that one grumpy old professor from the Old Boys’ Club who absolutely hates “feminists” and maybe I am inadvertently hurting her chances.

Sure, I could word it carefully so that it doesn’t set off the feminist trigger in most people, but I still have that nagging feeling of “what if” in my head.

Just to make sure that I am not misunderstood, I also support gender equality, and I do not want to discourage anyone from saying so, but recommendation letters are a delicate thing that need to appeal to everyone, and I do not want to hurt anyone’s chances, most of all not of these fantastic women that I want to brag about to everyone.

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