Fight Like a Girl (Paperback)

The Truth Behind How Female Marines Are Trained

By Kate Germano, Kelly Kennedy

Prometheus Books, 9781633884137, 304pp.

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

List Price: 18.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


One woman's professional battle against systemic gender bias in the Marines and the lessons it holds for all of us.

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.

About the Author

Kate Germano was an officer in the United States Marine Corps for twenty years, retiring in July 2016. After being relieved from command of the only all female unit in the entire Department of Defense, she gained notoriety for taking a stand against the Marine Corps for gender bias and lowered standards and expectations for female recruits and Marines. Her writing has been published in national media outlets including the New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report, and the Washington Post. She has also been featured on NPR, Vice News Tonight, CSPAN, and the PBS NewsHour.

Kelly Kennedy is the author of They Fought for Each Other: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq. An army veteran with combat experience, she formerly worked for the Army Times and USA Today covering veterans' issues and health policy.

Praise For Fight Like a Girl: The Truth Behind How Female Marines Are Trained

“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."

Kirkus Reviews

“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

Coverage from NPR