Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence in public life and relationships is one of these drivers, where women’s autonomy in both public life and private relationships is constrained. This can include undermining women’s decision making and leadership in public life, or relationships where men control a woman’s personal, financial or social independence.
Findings from the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (2017) support and reinforce this driver of violence against women. For example, many Australians:
- agree that men make better leaders, decision makers or are more suited to holding positions of responsibility (14% agree).
- agree that men have greater ‘natural’ authority, decision making and control in the private realm of intimate relationships and should have the ultimate say over what happens in a relationship or how a family and household are run (25% agree).
Men’s control of decision making and resources in the home, workplace or community can have serious consequences for women. Within public life, the overrepresentation of men in leadership positions and their control of decision making in the workplace has a flow on effect for women, whereby women:
- continue to be overlooked for leadership roles, and
- continue to be underrepresented in business.
Women in professions such as STEM, banking and finance, law, medicine and emergency services face strong cultural and institutional obstacles to leadership. This is despite the fact that women often have far higher postgraduate qualifications and are more likely to be overqualified for their work and wage than men in the same work.1
Men’s control over decision making within the private realm of heterosexual relationships and the family can limit women’s participation in public life. For example, the ‘man of the house’ can have the power to determine whether or not a woman can work and have economic independence. Women’s financial dependence on men is a barrier to them seeking safety from violence.2
Normalised control of decision making in relationships can also normalise controlling behaviours that increase the risk of intimate partner and family violence. This imbalance in power means that men have more opportunity to abuse that power with violence. Women, in turn, have less power to stop violence, call it out or leave.3
The socio-ecological model
Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence play a major role in shaping the way individuals, organisations and communities respond to violence. The socio-ecological model is used to help explain how violence is a product of multiple, interacting factors at the individual, organisational, systemic and societal levels.
The four gendered drivers exist at all of these levels and are the social conditions which predict, or ‘drive’, higher levels of violence against women.