The woman I am: Dynamic, tenacious, scientist

Sarah Dooley
March 05, 2024
Creative conceptual collage. Young woman looking in mirror and seeing her little self.
Image licensed from

As a child, I split my time between seemingly disparate pastimes: exploring the creek in my backyard and experimenting with my mom’s makeup.

As a little girl, societal judgments didn't cloud the purity of my interests. I was blissfully unaware of societal pressure and judgements that would be laid at my feet.

As the chapters of my life continue to unfold, so have the layers of societal norms and unconscious biases, and I have become increasingly aware of the pressure to conform to certain norms and expectations.

How am I supposed to continue navigating my path of self-discovery while contending with societal expectations? This has been a consistent challenge for me. Too many times I’ve found myself at the crossroads of my seemingly opposing interests and struggling with the task of integrating the diverse pieces of my identity. 

"May we all be like our younger selves, eager to continue to explore and experiment, and unafraid to be ourselves in a world that may not always understand us."

-- Sarah Dooley

March is Women's History Month and it's a perfect time to reflect on the multifaceted nature of women's identities and the journey of self-discovery that often accompanies navigating societal expectations. For many women, including myself, this journey involves embracing the diverse aspects of our identity and refusing to be confined to narrowly defined roles.

The world often insists on clearly defined categories and is quick to label things as "different". And while I don’t have everything figured out, I’ve learned to celebrate the mosaic of my identity.

Embracing my dualities, I’m proud to proclaim myself as the biggest extroverted introvert. I love the ocean because the waves mirror the vastness of my future possibilities. Simultaneously, I admire the mountains for how they invite me to delve into introspection and focus on the present. My palate finds love for a burger and a diet coke just as much as a fresh salad and tall glass of water. The intricate details of science fascinate me, yet I equally cherish moments basking in the warm sun, savoring the simplicity of a quiet mind.

From a career standpoint, declaring myself as a women scientist is met with skepticism. It feels like the world still has a predetermined image of a scientist and I don’t fit the mold. This imposed dichotomy made me feel like I had to neatly categorize my multifaceted identity into separate and predefined boxes for a long time.

As we enter Women's History Month, I am reminded of the young girl who innocently explored the creek and played with her mom's makeup, free from societal judgments and expectations. It is that same girl who, as an adult, navigates a world that often imposes rigid roles. Yet, she is also the one who refuses to be limited by these expectations, embracing her diverse interests, and challenging the norms.

Embracing a multifaceted identity intertwines with the realm of research, where each piece of knowledge adds a layer and depth to the overall understanding of the world around us. Similarly, our multifaceted identities bring a wealth of perspectives to the table.

In honoring the achievements of women throughout history, let us not forget the strength and resilience it takes to remain true to oneself. May we all be like our younger selves, eager to continue to explore and experiment, and unafraid to be ourselves in a world that may not always understand us.