Temple Grandin: my battle with sexism

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Temple Grandin spoke at the most recent Meat Business Women conference in London earlier this week
Temple Grandin spoke at the most recent Meat Business Women conference in London earlier this week

Related tags Livestock Processing equipment & plant design

Sexism almost derailed the career of Temple Grandin, she revealed at the Meat Business Women Conference in London.

Grandin, the world-renowned professor of animal science and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour and abattoir design, revealed how early in her career she suffered at the hands of foremen and middle management on cattle ranches.

“Where I had the biggest problem wasn’t the big bosses. It was the foremen, that level of management just below,”​ she told the attendees at the event.  

She explained that in one of the jobs, early in her career, a foreman told the boss of a ranch that her system design would not work. 

“The foreman was making advances to me and I didn’t want to have sex with him. It was very difficult to deal with,”​ she said.

“That almost derailed my career. I was so upset about it the fact that this rancher was not satisfied.”

She said that in the early 1970s: “I was a woman in a man’s world” ​where women on the ranches worked in the offices and not with the cattle. She said this sexism even extended to them putting bull testicles on her vehicle.

She also expressed her disapproval of some men within the US cattle industry.

“Some of the mistakes these men can get away with and still have a job,”​ she said.

“A girl has got to be better than a guy.  I hate to say it and I have worked to make myself very good in a specialised area.”

Animal Behaviour

Grandin, who has a form of autism that allows her to visualise the world through pictures, has used this to understand animal behaviour.

“Animal memories are specific because they are scenery based and not word based. If you want to understand animals you need to get away from words,”​ she said.  

“I noticed the cattle were looking at details that other people could not see. Little things we tend not to notice they notice.  You have got to give the animal non-slip flooring I can not emphasise that enough.”


She said that when she was working on McDonalds animal welfare audits one of the biggest problems was the slippery flooring.

“When I got the power of McDonalds behind me we cleaned up a bunch of plants. The biggest problems was simply not taking care of the equipment,”​ she said.

On the UK cattle market she said there are a lot of rules and regulations. She favoured a simpler system such as the scoring system she has implemented in the US.

“You have a lot of rules but does that mean that everyone is following them?”​ she added.


She said that showing her portfolio and writing for relevant farm publications had helped her career.

“I discovered how important writing was in advancing my career. I just put put good factual articles with useful information,”​ she said.  

She advised women to be “good at what they do”​, go to events and network and embrace travel.

“The shocker came in 1978 when I went to Australia and I found out that their meat plants were better than ours. That was a shock,”​ she said. “I would have thought the Arizona cattle fields were the centre of the world.” 

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