We’re celebrating International Women’s Month by recognizing some of the hospitality industry’s leaders. From architects to public relations executives, we’re grateful to be surrounded by strong women, guiding the way for the future of hospitality and equality in the workforce.
Next up in the series is Carolyn Izzo-Feldman, the Founder & CEO of CIIC PR, a boutique PR firm that specializes in lifestyle and hospitality PR. Carolyn’s more than 30 years of public relations and marketing experience form the foundation of CIIC’s PR’s renowned and distinctive offering of services. Her intelligent, creative, and energetic personality has made Carolyn a valued counsel to top executives at multinational hotel brands, fine dining and restaurant chains, real estate developments and government tourism boards around the world. Carolyn has piloted CIIC in numerous award-winning campaigns on behalf of the company’s diverse clientele. Before founding CIIC, Carolyn worked for several large public relations firms from which she gleaned experiences that honed her dedication to offer clients principal-led and personalized service. Today, CIIC is the culmination of Carolyn’s vision, setting a new standard for lifestyle public relations. Carolyn is a Public Relations Chair for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and is an active Committee Member of the East Coast Chapter of the International Luxury Hotel Association (ILHA).
What woman/women do you admire the most and why?
My mom always told me I can do anything I put my mind to. She encouraged me to take risks and go for my dreams and never judged me for any of my decisions. When I doubted myself, she was always there to support and guide me. She fought for my sisters and me to go to college since she knew it was important for us to be educated, independent women. She always made me feel confident and powerful.
I have also been fortunate to work with so many incredible women in the industry, from managers to CEOs to Female Founders – who always took the time to acknowledge me, guide me and empower me as a business owner.
Has being a female in a male-dominated space posed any challenges for you through your career? If so, how did you overcome them?
I started my business very young and was one of only a few female-founded PR agencies in a male-dominated world. However, the interesting thing is that I didn’t think about the male/female scenario until it was brought to my attention – by a male. I was at an event with my clients and was told to go “chat” with their wives while they did business. Shock? Yes. I decided at that point that I had to be more aware of this and never let anyone put me in the corner again. I will never forget what that day meant to me and how important it was for me to allow my work and talent to lead the way and earn the respect it deserves.
As a certified woman-owned business, I also knew how important it would be to support other women-owned businesses. By leading an all-female agency, I can continue helping women in the industry break the glass ceiling. Our mentorship program gives women the tools to develop the skills and the confidence to succeed in the industry. I am proud to say that most of our interns have had the opportunity to grow into executive roles, including Vice President, within our agency, further cementing our dedication to advancing women in PR.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
First, being a mom is one of my proudest achievements. Becoming a working mom is a close second. I am extremely proud that I started a PR agency when it was not the norm, without funding, investors, or business know-how. But my passion, drive and intuition, and a lot of hard work, led me to where I am today.
What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders in hospitality and how do you overcome them?
The pandemic has shifted the hospitality industry in so many ways and has brought with it challenges and opportunities. The past two years have forced us all to rethink how we work, live, and relate. I witnessed resiliency, growth, and courage like never before with my team – from interns to principals – who weathered the storm alongside me.
Now that the proverbial doors have opened again, we are experiencing a huge growth and influx of business which has become the next challenge for us all. Companies have promoted junior executives or managers into leadership positions almost overnight to keep up with demand and competition. This has put a huge stress on these young leaders who now have to literally learn on the job. My advice? Know that you were chosen for this position because you earned it. Challenge yourself to grow and learn every day. Stay in close communications with your team and company principals so you are heard. Ask questions, and always be prepared for the unexpected.
What is the most important message you want to share with women just starting out or looking to grow their career in hospitality?
The hospitality industry offers many opportunities. We are witnessing women making great strides and earning more leadership positions than ever before, which is more reason to celebrate. I think the most important thing is to find out what you are most passionate about and set goals for yourself. Surround yourself with a supportive team. Keep learning and find a great mentor who can guide you. And, most important, follow your intuition, always.
Interested in joining the East Coast Chapter? Join here