This paper aims to explore some of the manifold and changing links that official Pakistani state discourses forged between women and work from the 1940s to the late 2000s. The focus of the analysis is on discursive spaces that have been created for women engaged in non-domestic work. Starting from an interpretation of the existing academic literature, this paper argues that Pakistani women's non-domestic work has been conceptualised in three major ways: as a contribution to national development, as a danger to the nation, and as non-existent. The paper concludes that although some conceptualisations of work have been more powerful than others and, at specific historical junctures, have become part of concrete state policies, alternative conceptualisations have always existed alongside them. Disclosing the state's implication in the discursive construction of working women's identities might contribute to the destabilisation of hegemonic concepts of gendered divisions of labour in Pakistan.