The resulting social and economic transformations of marketization and democratization have had a significant impact on the employment terrain of post-socialist Russia. This has had particular effects on the forms and structures of work available for women. Our article argues that as a result of these social and economic transformations, the metaphor of ‘choice’ inherent in current theoretical approaches to the study of women at work in western contexts can also be adapted to the post-socialist context. Building on existing research on women and work in the UK and in Russia, we seek to provide new insights into Russian women's own understandings of work and non-work choices grounded in an analysis of women's use of rights discourses. Drawing on in-depth interview data with 49 women living in the provincial Russian city of Ul'ianovsk, we explore constructions of work in relation to narratives of discrimination; as a means of ‘samorealizatsiia’, and as ‘choice’ reflecting the continuing inseparability of public and private roles for women. Situating our work in wider global debates affecting the gendered nature of employment, the examination of the use of rights discourses not only highlights the multiple ways in which women perceive their choices about work but also offers an alternative conceptual framework.