“If You Can Get Pregnant, We Can’t Hire You”: A True Story About Hiring Discrimination


Should women have opportunities to work? That seems like an unnecessary question. It’s 2024, for Pete’s sake. Women have been in the workforce since the 19th century, with the 20th century seeing a more rapid increase of women’s access to higher education and higher-paying jobs around the world. In Singapore, the Women’s Charter was enacted back in 1961 to protect the rights of women to own property and engage in a trade or profession. Over 60 years have passed since—you’d think people would have gotten the message by now, yes?

But there’s a particular group of women that are, to this day, being quietly disadvantaged when it comes to accessing jobs. Just access, mind you—I’m not even talking about sex-based workplace discrimination that affects 4 times as many women as men yet.

If you’re guessing that the group I’m referring to comprises mothers and pregnant women, you’re close. From inappropriate interview questions to outright harassment, AWARE’s Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Advisory (WHDA) has dealt with over 200 cases of maternity discrimination since its inception in 2019. 

But the group of women I’m referring to fly even deeper under the radar: married women. I never even thought of segmenting our population this way until a few weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to speak to a friend of a friend about some challenges she’s faced getting a job in Singapore. It was mind-blowing in the worst way possible—I mean, married women? How are they discriminated against? Why?

Today, I want to tell Ria’s (not her real name) story. Her story is just one woman’s experience, so I don’t claim that it’s representative of what the majority of married women in Singapore face. I don’t have nationwide statistics on that kind of discrimination—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. No matter what your marital status is, regardless of your gender, I hope Ria’s story sheds some light on hiring discrimination and empowers you in whatever capacity you’re in. 


2018 was a big year for me. For starters, I got married! Within a few months, I moved to Singapore. I was excited to start a whole new chapter of my life—my married life with my husband.

I had been working in IT back home, so I continued in the industry in Singapore. Soon, I managed to get my Employment Pass. But while on the hunt for a new job in a different company, I had a bad experience.

“You just got married, right?” the interviewer asked me.

“Yes,” I confirmed, wondering why he was asking anyway.

“You must be planning to have a child,” he said, looking at me pointedly.

I was surprised and quickly corrected him. “No,” I said, shaking my head. “I only just got married, and I want to focus on my career first.”

The interviewer didn’t need to say anything for me to read the message in his eyes—I knew he didn’t believe me, “You just got married,” he repeated. “You’re going to have a baby.”


That was the end of that job opportunity. I decided I didn’t want to work for that kind of company anyway and eventually found a job elsewhere.

In 2019, I was referred to a reputable local company I was quite interested in. But during the interview, I was dumbfounded. The same thing happened again.

“You’ve been married for a while now and definitely want to have a baby soon.,” the hiring manager stated. ““If you took on this role, you would be the fourth woman in it. And the previous lady just went on maternity leave. If you do too, we have to fill the role again and I don’t want to have to hire someone new yet again.”


And just like that, through no fault of my own, with no consideration of my skills, abilities or even my family plans, I lost another job.

They say that as one door closes, another one opens. Soon after, I managed to get a job at a much better, more supportive company.


A few years later, I was finally ready to start a family. I got pregnant in 2022, and it wasn’t an easy pregnancy. I felt frequently nauseated, and the air-conditioning in the office didn’t sit well with me in my pregnancy,

Thankfully, my employer was supportive of me. While the norm was to work in the office at the time, I was given an exception and allowed to work from home to help manage my pregnancy symptoms. Even my client was understanding of my situation.


During one of my check-ups, my obstetrician told me that mine was a high-risk pregnancy. This, coupled with the fact that I wanted to deliver my baby in my home country, meant that I had to go back home 7 months into my pregnancy.

This posed a problem—I couldn’t take that long a period of leave to have a baby. I would still need to remain away from Singapore too while I had my newborn. With no other choice, I left my job before I flew back home.

Here’s the best part: My employer waited for me. They held my position! When my baby was around a month old, they reached out to me to offer me a job again. 


I couldn’t fly with a 1-month-old newborn, so I waited till my baby was a little over 2 months to return to Singapore. Even after I flew back, my employer let me work from home so that I could breastfeed my baby. I was also allowed more flexible hours so that I could better manage my time with my child in the first year of infancy.


Everybody should have the chance to prove themselves. And that isn’t going to be possible if employers put restrictions on those who have a child, are pregnant, or simply have the ability to conceive.

Indeed, women may want to have a baby—but that doesn’t mean they will compromise their quality of work. Shouldn’t we be treated like adults and be allowed to manage our time accordingly? I’ve been working from home since 2018, and I feel more productive when I work from home. I’m more energised to take on tasks and get things done.

So to anyone who has ever thought of motherhood as a liability, I hope my story has changed your mind. Motherhood only makes women stronger.


If you or someone you know has faced workplace or hiring discrimination due to your sex, marital status, pregnancy, or other related areas, please use these resources to report the incident.

AWARE’s Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Advisory (WHDA) 

  • Call 6777 0318
  • Email [email protected]
  • Office hours Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP)

  • Hotline: 6838 0969 (office hours are from 8.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m., except lunch hours (12 – 1 p.m.)
  • Submit a report online

AWARE Women’s Care Centre

  • Women’s Helpline: 1800 777 5555 from Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Make an appointment for a Chat or Call Back if you are currently unable to make a phone call


I hope Ria’s story spoke to you as it did to me. Share it with your family or friends!


About the author

Vanessa Nah is a personal finance content writer who pens articles on the ins and outs of travel insurance, the T&Cs of credit cards, and the ups and downs of alternative investments. She’s a researcher at heart and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to breaking down complex finance concepts and making them easy to understand for the everyday Singaporean. When Vanessa’s not debunking finance myths, you’ll find her attending dance classes, fingerpicking a guitar, or (most impawtently) fulfilling her life mission to make her one-eyed cat the most spoiled and loved kitty in the world.