LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Hard work and passion can take one a long way in their career. But for many women in the hotel or restaurant industry, the odds of them making it as far as their male counterparts aren’t as good.

However, there’s an effort to change those odds. It’s happening in the dining room, classroom and kitchen.

Chef Gina Marinelli is one of a handful of women recently nominated for a James Beard Award. One of the highest honors a chef can receive. “When I first started,” she said, “a female executive chef, that didn’t exist.” But it’s still a rarity. Less than 7% of head chefs and restaurant owners nationwide are women. Marinelli worked her way from dishwasher to owner with that motto in mind.

Working harder and smarter is something restauranteur Jolene Mannina realized when she helped launch the Women’s Hospitality Initiative. A program to get more women in leadership roles in front and back of the house.

To that end, a 16-week course is now offered at specialty schools across the country, aptly named Women In Hospitality Leadership. Each week Dr. Lisa Cain features a different speaker who shares their story. “celebrity chefs speak in our class and they talk about the challenges they’ve had, so if they’ve been able to overcome them you can too.”

Cain has been pleasantly surprised that a number of men are taking the college course and it’s making them aware early in their career about the title and salary disparity. She hopes they can be part of the solution when it comes to hiring and placing women in executive positions.