Beverage company, Lion and the human resources director of law firm Simpson Grierson Jo Copeland, have emerged as champions of equal pay at the 2017 YWCA Equal Pay Awards.

The two winners in the Gold category were acknowledged for their work in closing the gender pay gap by the Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter.

"New Zealand is proudly taking action on women being paid fairly. Organisations and businesses honoured tonight have shown what can be achieved when people take action to close the gender pay gap. Congratulations to award winners for being leaders. Every single employer in New Zealand can learn from these solutions and hopefully will use them in their own workplace," Genter said in her keynote address.

After an analysis and audit in 2016 revealed a gender pay gap of 3.2 per cent, Lion made the decision to address the issue immediately by making pay adjustments to a significant number of its employees in New Zealand - 59 per cent of which were women.

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"We take equal pay seriously at Lion so when our 2016 review of gender pay showed that we had a 3.2 per cent gap, we took immediate action to close it. Our work doesn't stop there - we're continuing to analyse our pay data every year, and review our processes to ensure that we maintain pay equity," said Robin Davies, Lion NZ's People & Culture Director.

Jo Copeland, human resources director at Simpson Grierson, was awarded individual commendation for her championing of equal pay in 2017. Copeland has been proactively sharing the law firm's learning curve via speaking engagements and media articles, and sharing her own personal experiences to help guide young women who may face challenges in the workplace.

"As lawyers, we believe in natural justice. For us, having a 0 per cent gender pay gap is a very important manifestation of our commitment to that principle. It is fundamentally the right thing to do. It's as simple as that," Copeland said.

YWCA Auckland chief executive and awards judge, Monica Briggs, said that the high standard of entries in the Gold category made it impossible for the judges to pick just one winner.

"We were very impressed with the level of internal communication, the desire to innovate and the visibility of Lion's CEO as an advocate for equal pay. Likewise, the personal commitment and drive shown by Jo Copeland at Simpson Grierson distinguishes her as a passionate campaigner for equal pay," Briggs said.

The Silver winner was engineering company AECOM, whose hiring policy of starting all new graduates joining the company on the same starting salary, and its strategic focus of encouraging more women into the industry, both impressed the judges.

International tourism firm Magic Memories claimed the Bronze category for their fast-faced commitment to addressing equal pay in a short space of time.

Median hourly earnings in 2017 for men was $25.49, and $23.02 for women.

Since 1998, the gender pay gap has been reduced by 16.3 per cent, but has stalled in the last decade.