In Her Shoes | Commercial Real Estate Extraordinaire & Miss Polly's Kitchen Polly Markus
Welcome to our third instalment of ‘In Her Shoes’ - a series motivated by driving positive change for women and all who identify as women through conversations covering the landscape of gender biases.
They say good things come in threes, and for this third chapter we speak with the effervescent Polly Markus who is not only a home chef turned Instagram sensation with Miss Polly’s Kitchen, but is also a highly regarded commercial real estate agent within what has historically been a ‘man’s world.’
Hello Polly! Since the first Covid lockdown of 2020, you have turned even the most tentative home cook into a master chef with drool-worthy but uncomplicated recipes over at @miss_pollys_kitchen on Instagram. We have loved tuning into your cooking, which has turned from something to keep people sane while stuck at home to a fully fledged business. However, it is less known that you are a well respected commercial leasing agent for Bayleys Real Estate. Can you share with us a brief synopsis of your career and balancing two full time jobs?
I started working in real estate straight out of school as a personal assistant for about four years. I then moved into the hospo world down in Britomart over the Rugby World Cup in Auckland in 2011 which was an absolute hoot! After a short one year stint doing events, I moved overseas and worked on a superyacht as a crew chef for three years. I had the time of my life over there and think about those times often.
Now based back in Auckland I have been a commercial leasing agent for nearly six years. It has definitely been a juggle over the last year and a bit, but I do love that both of my jobs are so different and both give me lots of fulfilment. I love the fast pace of commercial real estate, working with lots of different people from all walks of life and constantly learning from some very successful people which is in contrast to the slower pace of creating my own recipes in my little kitchen at home. I definitely think I have a lot on my plate and my goal for 2022 is to have a better work/life balance and learn to switch off, which can be challenging when you are a contractor or sole trader.
As you simultaneously straddle two sectors, food and real estate, have you experienced any noticeable differences in regards to gender biases between the two industries?
As I have really only just begun my journey in the food sector I mostly work on my own at this stage. The world of Instagram can have its challenges but for the most part I have only ever had positive feedback from all genders in relation to what I am doing.
Property, especially commercial property, has the reputation for being male dominant and a bit of a ‘Boys’ Club.’ Can you share any experiences of gender bias in your time as a leasing agent? Have you seen any shifts during your time in property?
Since starting in 2016, there has been a significant shift in my eyes. Most property companies are much more diverse than they were when I first started. I have seen plenty of female agents coming through in the recent years which is so great to see. I feel like being a female in such a male dominated industry has worked in my favour though as there are qualities that I bring to the table that differ from my male colleagues.
As a successful female leasing agent, what advice would you have for anyone who identifies as a woman reading this and wondering how to navigate any gender biases they may experience within their own industry.
I think it is important to speak up to the right people. Find someone within your own industry or company who you trust and respect. I find going to the right people with ideas and solutions, rather than just problems, really helps.
I’m sure you have at times found yourself as the only woman in the room. What advice would you give any of your male colleagues to be supportive of the change towards gender bias?
I think in any situation with your colleagues, regardless of gender, you should learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses so that when you are in a room with others you know how to make each person feel included and part of conversations. I am very fortunate to work in a team that is very inclusive of each other; we joke around and there is lots of banter but we all respect each other and our values and that is so important in a team environment.
I understand Bayleys have made transformational changes within policies and culture to be more inclusive of diversity. What changes have had the most impact on you that other companies might find useful to implement into their own businesses.
Commercial property has been dominated for many years by our male counterparts. I believe that Bayleys were one of the first in New Zealand to start initiatives such as Woman in Property groups within the commercial sector. They have listened to what is important to females in the industry and made positive steps to ensure change. We have ongoing monthly meetings to ensure women within the company feel like they are being heard and have a platform where we can discuss any issues. I believe that any company looking to implement change can start with a safe environment where any issues or suggestions that support inclusion and diversity can be raised confidently, and that companies do listen and take action rather than just paying lip service to the situation.
If you could conjure a recipe to help stimulate positive change towards the issue of gender bias, what would be your key ingredient and why?
Pasta! Everybody loves pasta. It’s comforting, doesn’t need to be overcomplicated to make you feel good, and is a great dish to have a honest conversation over. Really you just can’t go wrong with a big old bowl of pasta!
As a longtime friend of La Tribe, what do you love about the La Tribe brand?
I love that every single year they somehow outdo the season before. From the earrings to the sandals and boots. I love the seasonal colours and how versatile they are.
What pair of La Tribe sandals will you be reaching for this summer?
I have absolutely thrashed my Elke Braided Sandals. My go to's every summer are the Platform Slide and last season I got them in black croc. They are so chic, fab if you want a little extra height and are so easy to wear to work in summer.
We trust you enjoyed the third chapter of In Her Shoes. Our vision is to profile people instilling change for gender inequality, whether they are championing change within their industries, their communities or their homes.
Our hope is that by sharing their experiences with us we can open up conversation for our community.
You can read about where the series all started here.
xx La Tribe