Purpose: The purpose of this exploratory paper is to theorise and examine gender differences in the impact of financial capital on Chinese firms' growth, and investigate the role of guanxi (connections and networks) in the process of obtaining finance. Design/methodology/approach: A structured questionnaire is used to collect comprehensive financial data from 18 women to 69 men, which is analysed empirically. Findings: Women appear to be no more disadvantaged from obtaining finance than men in China and in some respects appear to be in a better position. Both women- and men-led firms are significantly stronger in relation to having access to enough finance to grow than at the start-up phase. A majority of participants in this study used guanxi to access finance. Furthermore, the paper finds that guanxi is used equally by men and women, and that guanxi-sourced finance comprised a significant proportion of the overall capital obtained. Research limitations/implications: One major limitation of the study is that, of the 87 questionnaires returned, 21 per cent are women and 79 per cent are men and, although the findings are not representative or generalisable, the results do suggest a number of possible avenues for future research. Originality/value: The paper has illuminated the under-explored area of the financing of growth in women-led firms in China. This research agenda is particularly important because small- and medium-sized enterprise finance in China is a key need-to-know area, there is a paucity of specific research on financing women entrepreneurs in China and of the phenomenal rise of women's entrepreneurship in China.