Equal pay for women is in the spotlight as more companies work to close the gender pay gap.

This week four large New Zealand businesses and one individual were recognised at the Equal Pay Awards - for the work they have done in closing the gender pay gap in New Zealand.

At the moment the difference in the median hourly rate between men and women in New Zealand is 9.3 percent.

For some - especially Maori and Pacifika women - the gap is much larger.

Telecommunications provider Chorus alongside computer engineer and She Sharp founder, Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh were recognised as champions of equal pay in the 2019 YWCA Equal Pay Awards.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter and Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali'I Dr Karanina Sumeo spoke via video message to acknowledge the achievements.

Comedian Michele A'Court was the MC and joked that women were needed in more top roles in business as "men had worked so hard and needed a rest."

On a serious note she said New Zealand still had a long way to go with pay equity - especially with Maori and Pacifika women.

"These events are really positive because they raise awareness and put the spotlight on what businesses are doing to help," she said.

The Supreme Award was won by Chorus who also took the Leadership and the Progressive Awards.

Chorus GM for People and Culture, Shaun Philp, said that the company's success in designing and implementing flexible work and a zero pay gap strategy was a company commitment.

"The Chorus Board and Executive team fundamentally believe that gender pay equity is a central tenet to our broader belonging strategy, which is why we've taken an active approach to managing gender equal pay," he said.

"We subscribe to the philosophy that equal pay is a social justice and an important economic issue."

Philip wanted to support other companies to do the same.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali'I Dr Karanina Sumeo said it was encouraging to see businesses address gender equality, equal pay and promote diversity and inclusion.

"These efforts will continue to empower New Zealanders and ensure basic human rights to equality and dignity are realised in the workplace," she said.

The Champion Award which recognises an outstanding individual driving equal pay in an organisation was awarded to AUT Senior Lecturer and Founder of She Sharp, Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh.

Judges said her work addressing the gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) had impacted thousands.

Mohaghegh founded She Sharp as a non-profit women's networking group in 2014 to provide encouragement, support, and learning for women in the STEM field, and those considering joining it.

She Sharp runs development events each year for high school girls, female tertiary students and professionals from within the industry.

Other award winners included Xero, Wintec in Waikato and Auckland Council.

YWCA Auckland Chief Executive, Dellwyn Stuart said the awards play a critical part in closing New Zealand's gender pay gap.

"Some companies such as Chorus are making great progress in this area – they know that embracing diversity – including attracting and retaining a range of women in the workforce – is critical for successful organisations.

"The number of new entrants and new sectors represented in 2019 is promising and shows the impact of our past winners who have set and met gender pay targets for others to follow". she said.

On 3 September 2019, Statistics NZ announced that the official gender pay gap was 9.3 percent.

This is the second-smallest gap since the series began 20 years ago.

In comparison, the gender pay gap was 9.1 percent in 2012 (the lowest on record) and 9.2 percent in 2018.

While the gap has closed over the past 20 years, on average women in New Zealand are still paid less for an hour's work than men.