Called 'too tough for the Marine Corps', Kate Germano made headlines in Spring 2015 when she took a principled stand and confronted systemic problems of gender bias and lowered expectations for women in the Marine Corps. A 20-year career Marine and combat veteran, she fought back and became a national figure by speaking out against discrimination and advocating for higher expectations and standards for women in the military. Her writing has been published in national media outlets to include the New York Times, Washington Post, San Diego Union Tribune, Time Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, and more. She has also been featured on NPR, CSPAN, and PBS Newshour.
Fight Like A Girl: the truth behind how female Marines are trained is one woman's professional battle against systemic gender bias in the Marines and the lessons it holds for all of us.
It's a little like that old David and Goliath story...
The Marine Corps continues to be the only service where men and women train separately in boot camp or basic training. This segregation negatively affects interaction with male marines later on, and, lower expectations of female recruits are actively maintained and encouraged. But Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano arrived at the Fourth Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island--which exclusively trains female recruits--convinced that if she expected more of the women just coming into Corps, she could raise historically low standards for female performance and make women better Marines. And, after one year, shooting qualifications of the women under her command equaled those of men, injuries had decreased, and unit morale had noticeably improved...then the Marines fired her.
This is the story of Germano's struggle to achieve equality of performance and opportunity for female Marines against an entrenched male-dominated status quo. It is also a universal tale of the effects of systemic gender bias. Germano charges that the men above her in the chain of command were too invested in perpetuating the subordinate role of women in the Corps to allow her to prove that the female Marine can be equal to her male counterpart. She notes that the Marine Corps' $35-million gender-integration study, which shows that all-male squads perform at a higher level than mixed male-female squads, flies in the face of the results she demonstrated with the all-female Fourth Battalion and raises questions about the Marine Corps' willingness to let women succeed.
At a time when women are fighting sexism and systemic bias in many sectors of society, Germano's experience has wide-ranging implications and lessons--not just for the military but also for corporate America, the labor force, education, and government. Kate and Kelly Kennedy, Army veteran, and best selling author of of "They Fought for Each Other: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq," are releasing Fight Like A Girl: The truth behind how female Marines are trained on April 3, 2018.
Read what others are saying about Fight Like A Girl...
January 23, 2018 - A passionate account of a former Marine Corps officer’s fight for equality and justice in a historically sexist system. When Lt. Col. Germano was hand-selected to take command of the 4th Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island, a group that trains only female recruits, she was well-aware of the challenges ahead. The Marine Corps is the only service that still segregates men and women during basic training, and the biased strategy is a breeding ground of issues. Implemented after an outdated, inaccurate study that showed mixed-gender units performed worse than single-sex units, the training program holds women to lower standards and maintains the damaging assumption that women are inherently mean and emotional. This strategy results in poorer performances in female recruits as well as dangerous and destructive behavioral issues. When Germano took command of 4th Battalion for what was supposed to be the swan song of her 20-year career, she was determined to change things for the better and prove women could be just as effective as men. Full review here.
March 2018 -Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano led female marine recruits to succeed in a system that expected little from women and kept them out of infantry roles. In Fight Like a Girl, she recounts bringing up performance scores and morale at the Parris Island training facility, and the outrageous lack of support from she received from the Marine Corps, which fired her a year into the job. Germano, who shows herself to be a great communicator committed to integrity and equality, faced a stunted career after challenging the status quo. Throughout her book, she argues compellingly that there’s no excuse for gender bias in the military or elsewhere and that the time for practices reinforcing such prejudices is up. Full review here.
Task & Purpose
March 16, 2016 - On March 1, to kick off Women’s History Month, the U.S. Marine Corps released a video depicting female Marines in serving in combat jobs, followed by photographs of female Marines from previous eras, with the tagline “For every woman who fights, there is a woman who fought for her.” For many female Marines, whether or not they know it, the woman who fought for them is Kate Germano. Germano retired from the Marine Corps in 2016 as a lieutenant colonel after being removed from her command of the 4th Recruit Battalion — the female boot-camp battalion — at Parris Island, South Carolina. The reason? The Marine Corps claimed Germano created a toxic command climate, and tried to publicly shame her as a poor leader and unhinged woman in the press. But few believed that story. The real reason Germano was relieved? Relentlessly pursuing higher performance from female Marine recruits, which included raising the expectations and standards to which they were trained, while also lowing injury and attrition rates. Full review here.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
please come see me at:
TBD: Princeton University
TBD: U.S. Military Academy (West Point)
April 12, 2018: National Press Club, Washington, D.C. Book talk and signing
April 10, 2018: Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.
April 5, 2018: The College At Brockport, SUNY
“A brave and important book.”
—Janet Reitman, contributing editor, Rolling Stone
"A unique, powerful story of sexism and gender bias that will resonate with women across industries and experiences. A no-holds-barred condemnation of discriminatory training policies within the Marines and of systemic sexism facing women everywhere."
“This passionate and raw account resonates with the Me Too and Time’s Up movements and is a powerful story of one woman’s perseverance.”
“A deeply personal, fully heartfelt, and powerfully written indictment of the policy of the US Marine Corps on training women for war. Lt. Col. Germano lays out the story of her journey from topflight Marine officer and battalion commander to being fired over differing visions for training female Marines at Parris Island. In the midst of the debate over women in combat roles and, indeed, in the post–Harvey Weinstein world, this is a must-read to see Germano’s articulate and compelling side of the story.”
—Adm. James Stavridis, US Navy (ret.), Supreme Allied Commander at NATO 2009–2013, and chief international security analyst for NBC News
“This firsthand account of institutionalized gender bias provides a call to action for the military and society. Kate Germano’s courageous narrative exposes the truth about the longstanding myth that women can’t fight. Compelling and powerful, her insider perspective on how women are trained to be Marines reinforces scientific evidence supporting gender-integrated military training.”
—David G. Smith, PhD, associate professor, US Naval War College, and coauthor, Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women
“Lt. Col. Germano delivers a detailed account of the deficiencies of separate-and-unequal training at Parris Island, leveling her guns at a legacy of second-class treatment for women in the Marine Corps. Her brave battle against anachronistic traditions in the sea service could benefit all Marines, if war-fighters of both sexes are encouraged to reach their full potential.”
—Gretel C. Kovach, war reporter (ret.)
“A funny and heart-wrenching explanation of how gender bias works in the Marine Corps. Fight Like a Girl makes clear that for all of the Corps’ courage in fighting our nation’s wars, there is at least one thing many Marines still fear: strong women.”
—Col. Aaron B. O’Connell, US Marine Corps, associate professor of history, the University of Texas at Austin
“A thought-provoking look into the Marines Corps’ views and training programs for females. The generals in the Marines didn’t want to hear and didn’t ask how Germano raised women’s qualification rates from 67–78 percent to 92 percent. They just wanted females to fail. Read why women Marines are inspired by Germano and want her to continue her fight.”
—Beth Brykman, author of The Best of Both Worlds: How Mothers Can Find Full-Time Satisfaction in Part-Time Work
“Our society would do well to take heed of Kate Germano’s story. Fortunately, she has laid it out in Fight Like a Girl, a deeply personal memoir. The next generation that wears the uniform owes her a debt of gratitude. Read this book and you’ll understand why.”
—Elliot Ackerman, author of Dark at the Crossing
“Inspiring, fresh, and highly relevant, as women continue their fight for parity. Germano’s tenacity, courage, and leadership are everything I would expect from a Marine and a woman. She is a true firestarter.”
—Kathy Palokoff, coauthor, Firestarters: How Innovators, Instigators, and Initiators Can Inspire You to Ignite Your Own Life
“Charges of sexism in the military have provoked an ongoing debate for years, and especially since the admission of women into combat roles. Training women for the US Marine Corps, long associated with hypermasculinity, presents a highly charged test case. Germano tells of her own fight against low expectations for women in the Corps . . . . Her story is colorfully told, with contrasting accounts of dedication, triumph, humor, and deep frustration. Her book is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand Marine culture.”
—David R. Contosta, author, America’s Needless Wars
OpEds & Interviews
Government Matters TV, April 18, 2018 - ‘Fight Like a Girl’ details Marine Corps treatment of women
Zero Blog 30, April 14, 2018 - Fight like a girl with Kate Germano
New York Minute Mag, April 12, 2018 - How to fight like a girl: Kate Germano's advice to military women
Circa, April 12, 2018 - She tried to train female Marines like male Marines and she says she was fired for it
Marine Corps Times, April 6, 2018 - This retired Marine's book says the Corps has a history of gender bias
Island Packet, April 4, 2018 - How do the Marines train women at Parris Island? A former officer shares 'The Truth'
USA Today, April 3, 2018 - I tried to be 'one of the guys' in the Marines and shut out other women. I was wrong.
New York Times, March 31, 2018 - Separate is not equal in the Marine Corps
NPR All Things Considered, March 31, 2018 - Ousted Marine commander aims to 'fight like a girl' against gender bias in Marines
KCRW Press Play with Madeleine Brand, March 30, 2018: Gender bias in the Marine Corps
Task & Purpose, March 30, 2018 - I Tried To Make Women Marines Tougher. It Was The Hardest Fight Of My Career
Military Network Radio, March 28, 2018 - Interview with Kate Germano and Kelly Kennedy
Washingtonian, March 27, 2018 - Under Her Command, Performance of Female Recruits Soared. Then the Marines Fired Her.
ConnectingVets.com, March 27, 2018 - Fight Like a Girl challenges the Marine Corps standards of female recruits
Military.com, March 26, 2018 - In 'Fight Like a Girl,' Ousted Recruit Commander Tells Her Own Story
Task & Purpose, March 16, 2018 - She Tried To Raise The Standard For Female Recruits. The Marines Fired Her For It. This Is Her Story
Task & Purpose, March 5, 2018 - Here's how the Corps still needs to change a year after Marines United
The Washington Post, October 22, 2017- John Kelly said ‘women were sacred.’ That attitude perpetuates the military’s culture of misogyny.
The San Diego Union Tribune, September 25, 2017- Female Marine Officer Smashes Glass Ceiling on Infantry- Let's Learn From It (co-author)
The San Diego Union Tribune, July 25, 2017- Senior Marine Corps Leaders Still Failing In Response to Nude Photo Scandal
The San Diego Union Tribune, May 18, 2017- The Marines are Dragging their Feet on Integrating Bootcamp. Why?
Task & Purpose, May 8, 2017- When Drill Instructors Go Off Script, the Consequences Can Be Fatal
The San Diego Union Tribune, April 13, 2017- Stop Lumping Service Women and Spouses Together (co-author)
The San Diego Union Tribune, March 8, 2017- Senior female Marines must speak out on sexism in ranks
The San Diego Union Tribune, January 19, 2017 - On Saturday She Is Marching for All Military Women
The San Diego Union Tribune, December 19, 2016- Mattis Must Be a Secretary of Defense for All Troops, Not Just Men
The San Diego Union Tribune, November 11, 2016- Abuse at Parris Island Bootcamp
Task & Purpose, November 6, 2016- The Consequences Of Gender Segregation In Marine Boot Camp
Foreign Policy, November 1, 2016- President Trump Would Be a Disaster for Women in the Military (co-author)
Task & Purpose, August 18, 2016- Recruiting More Women Into The Marine Corps Is Only Half The Solution
The Washington Post, August 3, 2016- Mike Pence said in 1999 that women shouldn't be in the military. So much has changed.
Arizona Central, July 2, 2016- Female Marine- Why Women Should Face the Military Draft
U.S. News and World Report, June 22, 2016 - It's Time for Women to Register for the Draft (co-author)
Task & Purpose, April 6, 2016 - The Marine On Hell’s Kitchen’s Problem With Female Marines Started At Boot Camp
Task & Purpose, March 30, 2016- The Marine Corps Doesn’t Have The Data To Validate The Status Quo For Women
Time Magazine (Motto), March 1, 2016- Marine Veteran: Drafting Women is Key to Ending Gender Discrimination
USNI Blog, February 18, 2016- Be Bold! The Power of Constructive Dissent
Military Times, January 20, 2016- Integration of Recruit Training- One Shot to Get It Right
Foreign Policy, January 11, 2016- Why Leadership Will Either Make Or Break Combat Integration in the Marine Corps
Time Magazine, December 18, 2015- More Female Marines Doesn't Mean a Stronger Force
Small Wars Journal, November 3, 2015- The Dangerous Nonevolution of the Military (co-author)
Time Magazine, September 12, 2015- Low Expectations Limit Female Marines
USNI Blog, September 2, 2015- The Road You Take
The New York Times (At War), July 28, 2015 - When Did It Become an Insult to Train Like a Girl?
Past speaking engagements
April 12, 2018: National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
April 9, 2018: WJLA DC Ch. 7 Midday Report
June 2017: TEDx Tysons
March 2016: NYC Bar Association debate on the integration of women into ground combat arms jobs and units.