Market-oriented economic reform, which accelerated after 1992, has brought substantial changes to the Chinese economy. This dramatic economic transition was raised two important questions: ‘How are women faring in the transition from a planned economy to a market economy?’ and ‘Are some women faring relatively better than other women’? We use data from the Chinese Household Income Projects for the years 1988 and 1995, a standard earnings equation, and quantile regressions to estimate and decompose the earnings gap. Our findings suggest that while the earnings gap has increased, the fraction of the gap ‘unexplained’ by differences in human capital variables such as education and experience has declined over time. This result is particularly pronounced for low earning women.